One of my daughter’s favorite Christmas tunes is, “Oh, I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”. You’ve probably heard it if you listen to the radio in the month of December. The first line is, “Oh I want a hippopotamus for Christmas. Only a hippopotamus will do”. You may not have a child asking for a Hippo, but many children have a wish list a mile long or containing toys that are totally inappropriate for their age or their parent’s budget. We’ve probably all known a child (or been that child!) who throws a tantrum because they did not get what they wanted, or their distorted expectations were not met.
We love to give our children special gifts for Christmas, Birthday, Chanukah or other special occasions. Our children come to expect gifts and then to request (read, “demand”) gifts, often prompted by adults asking, “What do you want for Christmas?”
Take the focus off of receiving gifts. I recommend having a discussion several months before a holiday about the reason we give gifts. Things like: this is a token of our love, to celebrate or commemorate a special event, to make a person feel special. We sometimes give a gift to stimulate growth (like a book). We give because God first gave to us—the gift of Life, of Health, of Salvation. We give to bring joy to others. We want to encourage a spirit of giving and thankfulness. This discussion can help children develop a better understanding of gift giving. It is not an exhaustive list of demands. It is a demonstration of love and should be appreciated as such whatever the gift might be. A simple, loving gift is more precious than a mountain of packages under the tree.
Changing the emphasis to giving rather than receiving can be helpful. Make a list of people your child would like to give gifts to; discuss what things that person likes and note what type of gift you could give. Try to add someone to the list who will probably not give you a gift in return—maybe your mail carrier or bus driver.
Children can be given extra chores to earn money to purchase gifts, but I think a gift that is created by the child is more meaningful and takes the emphasis off the “commercial”. A special card, a book of coupons for hugs/kisses/special help around the house, a framed picture, a video montage, homemade cookies or flavored Chex Mix.
Write a creative story, have it typed, illustrate it, and give it as a book. Read a favorite story to a grandparent. Perform a puppet show. If your children are musical they could play or sing a song for a loved one; if the person lives far away, it could be video-taped and e-mailed or performed on Skype. Whenever possible, the child should wrap the gift and deliver it in person. Watching a person open their gift and seeing the joy that it brings will help your little ones gain a better understanding of gift-giving and will begin to develop a spirit of generosity. Make sure that your children see and hear your gratefulness when you open a gift. Model thankfulness by your words and actions—a phone call or hand written note to the giver is always appreciated.
Children should not be encouraged to make a long list of “wants”. An attentive parent usually knows what a child likes and what they have been looking at in stores. If a child comes to you with a list you should take the list but say to the child, “Remember our conversation about gifts. We love you. Just because you have made a list does not mean that we are obliged to get you the things on that list.” You will have a great Christmas/Birthday/Chanukah whether or not you get the things on your list.
Blog Administrator: Trisha Roberts
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