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All I Want for Christmas is a Brand New Kid: Who Does All of This Stuff Anyway?

AppreciationChristmasThink about the Christmas and kids and there are a lot of things that come to mind. Santa, presents, candy, singing, endless activities are a few. One that probably doesn’t – appreciation.

Last week we started a four-week podcast series on teaching kids appreciation and how to cultivate it in your kids. Not to be confused with gratitude, appreciation is more than being thankful for what you have, it is recognizing the sacrifices others make on your behalf.

For years Christmas lists have been the bane of the holiday season for me. Well intentioned grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends have asked for lists from the kids to avoid duplicating gifts. While on the surface this may seem practical, overall it seems unbelievably manufactured and greedy to me.

A few years ago one of our family members set up an online wish list system where the kids could add things to a list and then gift givers could secretly go online, choose a gift from the list and then mark the list so that no one else would buy the same thing. Inevitably on Christmas someone would be disappointed that they hadn’t received something on the list. “But I asked for it!” one of them moaned. As I looked around a piles of toys that had been set aside, I decided we were done with Christmas lists in our family.

Teaching Kids Appreciation

Before Christmas planning is in full swing, sit down with your kids and talk to them about giving this year. What will they give as gifts? What do they plan to receive? Are they being realistic with their plans?

One of the fastest ways to teach kids to appreciate what they receive this Christmas is to ask them to put some skin in the game. Give them a Christmas budget for their gifts and tell them that they are responsible for picking out all of the gifts they want to give with that money.

Think this sounds drastic, or maybe even expensive? Think of it this way.  This is money you were already spending on gifts already, you were just doing it on their behalf. Since you aren’t likely to give your child $50 to buy a gift for each person on their list, you are going to cause them to really think about how much they can spend and what the recipient would really like to have. This works especially well with sibling gifts. It’s very easy for us as parents to step in and take a kid shopping and then pay for the cart full of things they’ve “picked out.” Instead, make this year’s shopping experience a way for them to begin to appreciate what goes in to choosing a gift they think will be perfect AND is within their budget.

Will this method take a little longer? Absolutely! But it is one way to take what has become a commercialized grab fest into a meaningful teaching experiment.

When Christmas comes around and presents are unwrapped, you will have a new framework for discussing disappointment with your kids. And no matter how much they get, too often SOMEONE is disappointed. Talk about why the gift might have been chosen. Talk about how the price of what they wanted might have been out of someone’s budget. Talk about how long it must have taken them to drive to the store, pick out the gift and wrap it themselves (yes, the kids should be wrapping the gifts.) Talk about how hard it is to choose a gift for someone else and how much the giver really hoped the receiver would be happy.

Make this year different. Make this the year of appreciation!

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