The holidays are upon us and 'tis the season for gift-giving and, of course, gift-getting.
For little ones, with all the focus on Santa Claus, and toy-making elves, and presents, presents, PRESENTS, the gift-giving aspect can get a little lost in the mix.
Introduce the idea of giving early, in small ways
There are some really easy ways to start to introduce the idea of empathy, kindness and giving. It starts when little children want to help their parents (with things like washing dishes), and that in and of itself is the act of giving— giving of their time, giving of their skills, but we oftentimes turn kids away. And that's their first sense that maybe giving isn't so important.
If a child offers to help a parent with the dishes, for example, let them. If you say to them, 'Thank you for giving me your cooperation. Thank you for giving me your time up here at the sink," then the child will begin to connect the act of giving to what it does for the person they're giving to.
Make giving something you talk about and practice all year round
Often there's a younger child who will give their allowance to an older sibling and very quickly they hear mom and dad say, "No no, you keep your money, don't give it to your older brother." Or a child will say they want to pay for the ice cream if we go out tonight, and a parent will say "No no, don't spend your money, let us." And so those messages get very confusing for children. And then suddenly as the holidays approach, they're bombarded with these messages of being grateful, that it's the season of giving, and we should give to those less fortunate, but there's no context. It's not a part of their daily life, it's suddenly a message that they can't relate to.
Don't beat yourself up if your kid is more interested in getting than giving
There's so much pressure on parents and their children to suddenly have this abundance of a giving nature, and we want our little children to go out and be generous and have more fun giving than getting, but the truth is, it doesn't happen just because it's November. We have to look at in terms of what's the daily exposure to the kinds of character traits that include kindness, giving and gratitude. But if your child isn't demonstrating a generous nature all the time, don't beat yourself up. A little is enough. We're looking at the long-term growth of a child and that they grow into a person who's a giving, generous, empathetic human being.