It’s easy to get a case of “The Gimmies” this time of year when we see the importance our culture sets on giving and receiving gifts. I try to limit the amount of TV advertisements our kids ingest, especially during the holidays. (You know, because of kids running to me every commercial break to jabber about what they desperately want for Christmas… which is totally different from what they absolutely needed the commercial break before that). Whatever your holiday traditions are, don’t forget to add a conversation about what this exciting season really means to your family.
Christmas began with the legend of Saint Nicholas and his gifts to the poor families of his day. The most cited gift of charity he performed was to a poor man with three daughters that he couldn’t marry off without a proper dowry (and was therefore considering to sell them into prostitution). In secret, St. Nicholas left a bag of coins for each of the three daughters in intervals so that they would have the chance to prosper. Today (in this country) our society’s values have changed dramatically, and so has the practice of Christmas.
Without parental involvement, children will believe the only sources of information they have on Christmas found in our society: Consumerism.
I want! Give me! I deserve! All I have to do is ask! Buy if for me! I need it! If I had one, I’d be happy! One for you, two for me.
To quote the Muppet, Constantine, their attitudes say: “I believe in equality, as long as you get less than me!“
We should be quoting James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.”
Ultimately, the giving of gifts helps our personal relationships when they are given and received within the love of Christ. We have to find the time to remind our kids that the idea behind Christmas is more about communicating our love to others than simply receiving gifts.
A healthy way to counter the blatant advertising directed at your children, is to encourage them to think of others.
I’m sure you have noticed that your kids also want to get the biggest and best gifts for everybody they know; with little thought to the price or who is paying, or how that money is earned. Nor do they think of giving to those less fortunate than themselves. Kids aren’t really greedy or thoughtless… just clueless!
Talking to kids about spending limits will help them understand that what (and how much) they receive isn’t a reflection of how much they are liked or loved. It’s a matter of being thought of with care that matters.
Often, a personally crafted gift is more meaningful to the recipient. If there is one thing kids can do on a limited budget, it is crafting a card or other homemade project!
The months/weeks approaching Christmas is a good time to make room for incoming toys and clothing. Encouraging kids to donate toys they don’t play with gives them a sense of helping their community.
Look for opportunities to encourage saving money throughout the year. Birthday money is a great place to start kids thinking about Spending and Saving. When my kids get money, I encourage them to buy a little something that they want with it. The kids save the money that is leftover in a labeled envelope (that I keep hidden). Other opportunities for saving come throughout the year: Odd jobs, grandpa paying for good grades, etc.
When my kids want something, they have to negotiate terms for my willingness to buy it. Usually, I barter with extra chores (there’s always something that needs cleaning). Once regular chores are done, they can take on as many extra chores as they are willing to do that day; usually for 50 Cents each. The money earned gets placed (and labeled) into their personal envelope until needed.
There are other ways to earn money: working for grandma, mowing neighbor’s lawns, straight A’s, etc. Number 5 is especially keen to finding opportunities to earn a little extra change. I have to be careful asking him to do little random things like taking my dishes to the sink for me.
“Mom, since I took your dishes to the sink for you, can I have a quarter?”
Sometimes I pay up, sometimes I tell him he has to be nice to me for free.
Kids would buy each other the right half of Best Buy if we let them, but thanks to reality, we have to keep them on a budget. When they were smaller (or perhaps when there wasn’t so many of them), we would take them individually into the Dollar Tree Store to buy one gift for everyone in the family. They were thrilled to be able to spend their own money on a gift that they chose personally for each brother, sister, and parent. When one child finished shopping & paying, he/she returned to the car, and the next child had their turn to shop with mom or dad.
Now, we have the kids draw names to buy a gift for one sibling. This works because they are able to dedicate more thought and money into their purchase. Since they know their spending limit, they can look through magazines and stores with that price in mind. If a child says that they want to get something that they don’t have enough money for, we will brainstorm ideas of how to earn extra money (or look for something comparable).
Of course the most exciting thing for kids to do is wrap their gifts. Just grit your teeth, and don’t think of the tape and wrapping paper they are abusing in their efforts to learn how to wrap. It’s fun for them, and an important life skill. (I don’t know about you, but seeing something my husband wrapped when we first got married was like hearing nails scraping on a chalkboard).
For the love of all that is holy, remind your children to be thankful for the gifts they receive at Christmas (and their birthday party)! Most grandmas don’t expect kids to be excited about socks and undies in a beautifully crafted gift bag, but nothing heats my face more than watching those items get pulled out and discarded with the tissue paper as my kid looks for the “real” present inside the now empty bag.
Look, kid… Wear matching socks without holes and undies without streaks if you want grandma to get you something different next year… now go say THANK YOU.
Teaching and reminding your children about the importance of Family, Gratitude, Love, Hope, and Faith this holiday season has the added benefit of reminding yourself. You know, so you don’t Grinch-out. We all need to remember WHY we are running around from sale to sale looking for the perfect gifts for the sometimes-not-so-perfect people in our lives. I guess it’s just easier when we do things out of love!
Mom-of-Seven will be taking a couple of weeks off after next Thursday’s Post, and return in January 2018!
How do you communicate the importance of generous Giving and Receiving to your children? Let me know in the Comment section below!