Teaching children charity during the holidays. One advantage of coming from a family of 7 children is that I knew perfectly well I was never getting Malibu Barbie AND her cool beach car AND her princess playhouse AND her fancy wardrobe. I would get ONE of those things and I would be happy about it. Everyone complains that “kids today are just so greedy!” But in their defense, let me tell you that my marketing background is filled with alarming statistics about advertisers focusing in with a laser beam intensity on the most impressionable AND the most influential member of the household–your kid. So seriously, don’t be too shocked when your offspring hands you an extensive list of requests, right down to the color, brand and code.
Add that carefully infiltrated avarice to the need to teach our kiddos the joys of charity and giving back–that’s a challenge. Here’s some suggestions from the Smartest Mommies I Know:
1. Setting expectations early: I give the kids these tags to mark items they know they’d like to receive. It also tempers expectations of a zillion, trillion presents and makes them ruthlessly pare down to what really matters to them.
2. Limit TV and computer time over the holidays: I know, easier said than done. But it’s still easy to catch up on the holiday classics by popping in a DVD or jumping over to YouTube and then out again. The less of the relentless barrage of advertising, the better.
3. Begin service in the fall when there’s more time: we start with The Backpack Project before school starts. The twins save their allowance to buy backpacks, school supplies and personal hygiene items for the kiddos at the Road Home, our local family shelter. They include a letter sending best wishes for a great school year. The more opportunity our kids have to serve the little people who need their help, the better. The twins and Zoe–after an initial case of shyness–end up hanging out and chatting like buddies. Another great option is to volunteer with a church or work group to make and serve dinner at a shelter, bring a craft activity to make with the kids. This helps my kids understand that they’re not giving to a faceless entity: these are friends.
4. One Toy In, One Toy Out: good for two purposes–teaching decluttering and helping kids make decisions about what’s really important, and what’s just taking up space. One crucial caveat: the toy given away must be in good shape, and we have a discussion about why this toy would be appreciated by another child. The kids and I clean up the toys, make them look great, and donate them.
5. A Gift To The Father On Christmas Day: you can make this suggestion totally non-secular, by the way. We use this analogy to teach the kids that on the holiday we celebrate, they need to offer The Heavenly Father a gift in thanks for the gift of his Son to the world. They select a gift from the among the ones they’ve received, we re-wrap it up and take the perfect, new gift to another child. (Editor’s note: I try to not reference religion on this site too often–I think faith is a personal choice. I used this only to show how we give thanks. Your way will likely be even more brilliant.)
How do YOU teach your children charity and generosity during the Holidays? Spill! Discuss! Share!