Growing up, I only had a few toys to play with. Greek newcomers to Canada, we didn’t have much. My treasured childhood favourites were a couple of Barbie dolls. My dad once made me a chalkboard himself so that I could play pretend school.
When the Cabbage Patch doll came out, I remember the anticipation and joy when my dad took me to wait in line to buy it at Woolsworth.
Almost 30 years later, here I am with a family of my own and so pleased to be able to give my kids everything. But when is everything too much?
My kids are like any other – they want toys for Christmas. No clothes! No pyjamas! Toys toys TOYS! This year, I don’t want a repeat of last Christmas when my boys tore through their gifts like tornadoes, opening one gift after another without appreciating the thought and value of the gift. They were excited of course but I realized I needed to do more to teach them how to properly acknowledge the person who gave it to them and give a proper thanks, and to truly be thankful for the kind gesture. It was a rude awakening and I vowed to change their behaviour.
But the abundance of tempting ads on television for toys and video games don’t help the “I Want” syndrome of our kids’ generation. Many parents find their children have written with a Christmas list that is out of control. And while we love to play Santa, we want our kids to grateful about what they already have, to be thankful for and appreciate what they are given, and to understand the joy of giving as well.
How do we instill the value of being thankful? Giving thanks? Giving to others? Here are some tips that might be useful.
Teaching Kids to be Thankful
Although kids can be trained to say “please” and “thank you” beginning at about 18 months, real appreciation, gratitude and generosity take time to truly develop. Persistence in teaching them the rules is key.
If your child writes out a gift wish list that is longer than expected, explain that you understand there are things he wants but in reality, he may only receive a few of them. Have your child shorten that list down, or create two lists, by choosing those he really wants and those he could live without or wait for.
This year, I asked my The Boss (who is 6) to write a Christmas list. Surprisingly, he had only written three items on his wish list.
Before the madness of any gift-receiving occasion, have a talk with your child first. Remind her that even though she may not like every toy, she should still show her appreciation and thanks.
Anytime your child receives a present, point out that the person giving the gift put much thought and effort into it. Talk about how this person must have taken a lot of time to think of or make the gift, how that person must really know what you like, how nice and thoughtful it is. The concept of quality gifts and not quantity, will become learned with time. After your kids receive gifts, get them into the habit of writing thank you notes.
Giving to others:
When you take your kids out shopping, tell them that your shopping trip is only to buy gifts for the family member. Help them to get excited about giving by getting them involved in choosing the gifts for grandma or uncle Joe.
When your child complains about his friend or cousin having something that he wants, explain that what works in one household may not work for another.
My son complains that his cousin has two Nintendo DS’s and wants one himself. But I really refuse to buy him one because a) The Destroyer will want one too and I’m not buying two; b) they are expensive and so are the games; and c) we already have the Wii, which the whole family can play.
My explanation was, “Well, the Wii is more fun because we can all play as a family. The DS is only for one person.”
Once or twice a year, ask your kids to get involved in donating clothes and toys to those less fortunate. Kids can enjoy going through their belongings and picking out toys they don`t play with anymore to someone who needs them. If there is a local toy drive, ask your kids to help you pick out some toys to donate. Bring them to the toy drive drop-off together.
Expose your kids to all walks of life. If you see a homeless person for example, ask questions to your kids: `Where do you think that person sleeps? Do you know he doesn’t have a home? “ It’s important that kids will know how lucky they really are.
Be a role model:
Your kids watch your every move and every word you say. Show your manners and grateful behaviour and your kids will follow suit. In your own everyday interactions, always say please and thank-you and be kind to people you encounter at the grocery store, bank, school, etc. Your child is really paying attention!