Maybe you have, like me, heard a few of these words this holiday season:
“Mom, I REAAAALLLLLY want this!”
“Can I have a pen to circle everything I like in this toy catalog?” *insert circling of every item on every page here*
“Let’s go look at the toy aisle, mama! I need to get allll of this for Christmas!”
Don’t get me wrong. The holidays are such a fun opportunity to gift our children those special items that catch their eye. Of course, our relatives also love to watch our little ones open that certain object of their affection. However, in our home, it is so important to me that it goes beyond “wanting” to identifying the difference between a “want” vs. a “need”.
I want my children to understand that it is ok to desire a material possession of their choice. However, I also want them to have eyes that there are people in this world that actually need material items. People that need things that we so easily take for granted such as food, water, and clothing. It’s crucial in our home that the holidays are not just a time about getting and receiving, but also about a time to give generously.
©2018 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt
My girls are both under the age of 5, but here are a few simple tips that we have used in our family to try to cultivate a generous attitude this time of year:
1. Lead by example
Someone once told me in regards to parenting that “more is caught than is taught” and that has continued to stick with me. The more we model the behavior we tell our children we want them to have, hopefully, they will catch that our words are aligned with our actions. My husband and I have taken this to heart and want our girls to see us give – not just tell them to do it. We bring them into the experience when we give gifts to school staff, coworkers, neighbors, etc. We tell them when we donate money to the church or to charitable causes and why. Ultimately, we want them to leave our home one day remembering that we were people that were generous.
2. Teach them that you can be generous with more than just money
While we do encourage our kids to give monetarily to people and causes, we also challenge them to be generous with other things. We want them to be people that are generous with their time: such as giving their time to serve, taking time to help a neighbor in need, or spending time baking treats for the postman. We want them to be generous with their talents, too. For example, our oldest daughter is a talented storyteller and loves to tell stories and act them out. I would love to see her use her talent to read stories to people, such as the elderly in nursing homes in our community.
3. Place value on people over things
This is a simple phrase we repeat often in our home as we want our children to always place value on human beings over material items. We want them to see the needs of people and desire to care for them more than they desire for an object to put on their toy shelf. One way we implement this during the holidays is by serving people, both in our city and abroad. Things we have done locally include outreach to our homeless community, volunteering at a women’s shelter, and adopting a family in our neighborhood.
On a global level, we enjoy purchasing toys for children in other countries and sending those out through our church each year. A future goal of ours is to sponsor a child in a developing country so that our girls can understand first-hand what life looks like for these children and, in turn, give them a new perspective.