It's VERY important to me that my children appreciate what they have and what they receive from other people. I know I can't always predict the reaction of kids as they unwrap a package from a relative or a friend, but I hope that each item excites them and they understand that "it's the thought that counts". How do I get my children to understand the importance of a gift? Well, I try to instill some values that I think improve graciousness:
- Respect your property- I am a bit regimented with toy clean up. Why? Well, I do like some order in my house, but truly I want my children to keep their toys together to understand their value. Toys cost money, and when you lose pieces or damage them they aren't worth much any more. Each toy has a place and if I notice my children throwing toys or haphazardly littering them around the room, they will lose that toy for a number of days.
Playing with Doctor Kit (the kit from when I was a kid....)
- Don't spoil. I never splurge on a toy while we are at Wal-Mart shopping with the kids. I don't buy 5-6 gifts for them on their birthdays, why? Because who could appreciate a coloring book, crayons, or doll baby if you get them whenever you want? Reserve presents for truly special occasions, and even then limit the amount you give your kids-- they don't need much.
- Teach the value of a dollar. When Grace turned 2 years old we went to the mall with a friend who had a little boy. We used to have a beautiful carousel in the center, and my friend's son said, "Can we ride on the horses?" And Grace answered, "No, that's way too expensive." Boo-yah. Taught my kid to be a cheapskate by two. Seriously, don't be afraid to show them how much things cost and why they can't have everything they want.
- Write Thank-You notes. At every age, I have my kids write Thank Yous in their own way. For babies, toddlers, and non-writers, I always try to take a picture of the kids opening the gift, and include that picture in my note. As they start to get older, I have them sign their name or draw a picture in the card. I also like to quote my children in the Thank You, for example, this was the card to my neighbor last year, "Lisa, Grace said, "I really like the sand art set you gave me for Christmas if only my mom would let me open it." I swear, she said that-- it was too messy during the holidays, I had to wait until January. Anyway, now that Grace writes well, she doesn't just sign her name, she has to write it too.
- Show your graciousness too. Leading by example is the best way to teach kids anything. I often rave about presents and kindnesses so they understand how to appreciate someone. I bake things for neighbors when they do favors for us and I write my thank you notes in front of them too. Also, anytime I bring out a toy or outfit that was given to them, I remind them of who gave it to them and for what occasion.
- Practice thankfulness. How does a 3 year old react when they receive a duplicate gift? "Um, I already have this." How do you prevent that awkwardness? I prepare my kids (especially at birthday parties) by practicing opening a gift that they do no like or already have. I teach them to smile and say, "Thank you" and to notice a nice thing about the item. Teaching your kids ahead of time definitely alleviates some of those challenging moments.
Easy Rule #122513 Gratitude is a learned behavior. Take the time to appreciate everyone this holiday.
Easy Rule #122613 As a parent, giving IS better than receiving at Christmas- so enjoy the fun moments!