Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
I read a story on The Huffington Post today about a little boy who wrote a letter to Santa in 1915. He asked for a box of paint, a book and a back to put it in. If Santa had any to spare, he also asked for nuts and candy. I showed this letter to my little girl the same age who has asked for a Nintendo DS, Super Mario Brothers, an iPad, an American Girl doll, a hamster and other things. She doesn’t understand that the spirit of the season is about giving. It’s my job to teach her. I need to get to work.
Authors Saren Loosli and April Perry totally agree with me. They recently wrote the book Deliberate Motherhood. Read their story below and find the two tips they have about teaching kids the joy of giving.
“As the holidays approach and our children get excited about all that Santa might bring, materialism and give-me attitudes can start to set in. While it’s wonderful to see our children’s joyful anticipation regarding the gifts they may receive, perhaps one of the greatest things we can give our children is the opportunity to experience the true joy of giving.
When I was growing up, my siblings and I worked hard in November and December to earn money for Christmas presents. My parents wanted us to fully experience the joy of giving at Christmastime alongside the joy of receiving. So from the time we were very young, we worked, earned money and purchased all our own Christmas gifts. And some of my favorite holiday memories are centered on the gifts I was able to give to family members and the sweet modest gifts I received from siblings.
I’ll never forget one year when my sister gave me a very unexpected and generous gift. Whenever we were shopping with my mom, I’d been loudly admiring a little wind-up doll that played a beautiful song. I’d already requested a fancy present from Santa. I knew my parents would only be buying me clothes. So I figured it was worth letting my siblings know about my interest in the doll, even though it cost $20 which was way out of the range of what my siblings could afford. I was so surprised and delighted to find that doll in the lovingly-wrapped box my sister handed me on Christmas! But I think that she might have been even more delighted than me when she saw how happy I was.
With our own children, my husband and I have carried on this tradition. As a mom, some of my all-time favorite moments have happened as I’ve watched my children’s excitement as they’ve carefully picked out gifts for their siblings, barricaded themselves into a secret spot to wrap those gifts, and then watched with great anticipation as their gifts were opened and appreciated.
Here are 3 Simple Steps to get kids in the Spirit of Giving this holiday season:
1. Work with your children to figure out a Christmas present budget. You may want to look online or check out what’s available at stores to help them get a sense of what types of gifts would be available in different price ranges. Setting a Christmas budget and shopping around for the best prices on gifts is a great and simple step towards teaching our kids real-life economic principles. Of course the budget needs to be somewhat flexible. I’ve loved seeing my children occasionally dip into the funds they were saving for something for themselves or team up with another sibling to buy a perfect gift that costs more than they’d planned to spend. When my children were younger, I found that it worked best to have them buy each others’ gifts at the dollar store where everything is conveniently the same price.
2. Set up a way for your children to earn extra money towards their Christmas budget. Look at the money children have so far (from allowances saved, etc.) and show them a list of jobs they can do around the house to save up extra money. For younger children, you can make a simple chart with a square for every $.25 or $.50 they’ll need to get up to the overall amount they plan to earn and create a list of “money jobs” they can doaround the house to check off each square on their chart (Watch this video to see my twins explain how they learn money toward specific things using a chart: Learning About Earning).
3. Set aside a special time on Christmas or even Christmas Eve for the kids to give out their gifts. This way, your children’s thoughtful gifts will not be overshadowed by grander ones. After all the hoopla of stockings and Santa gifts on Christmas morning, we eat a special Christmas breakfast and then spend a good chunk of time having each child give out their gifts, one at a time. We make a big deal of every gift and ensure that every giver gets a great hug and thank you from the receiver plus praise from us for their thoughtfulness.
We wish you all the best as you strive to give your kids the gift of giving this holiday season!”
April Perry and Saren Loosli are also the Co-Founders and Directors of Power of Moms. April is the mother of four children ages 5 to 13 and Saren is the mother of five children ages 8 to 13–see her in the photo above on the far left sharing gifts with her own siblings years ago.