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This guest post was written by Jenny Silverstone. View her bio at the end of the post!
Between the holidays and birthdays scattered throughout the year, it feels like my house is being flooded with gifts. While it’s great to watch my kids’ faces light up when they open up that new toy they’ve been waiting for, I can’t help but worry that they might be forgetting the beauty of generosity. Sure, they know to say thank you, and we even write notes to express gratitude. But I just couldn’t help but wonder if we could be doing more as parents to teach kids that giving can be just as fulfilling as receiving. These are some of the ideas I’m using to instill the habit of giving without expecting anything in return.
Change Their View
Most of our kids today truly don’t know how good they have it in their beautiful rooms surrounded by toys and gadgets. And they may never know this to be the case unless given a point of reference. One of the life lessons I’m teaching my kids is to introduce them to an inside view of what life is like for children around the world.
One example is to show a video of kids from a less-privileged background happily playing together with simple items, like an old tire or handmade dolls. Then, start a conversation on how it’s not necessarily what or how much you have, but who you share it with that truly matters.
Make Gift Shopping a Family Activity
Most parents avoid shopping with their young ones like the plague. But it’s difficult to expect kids to enjoy giving a gift if they never had any say in choosing it. To reduce the risk of your outing ending in a tantrum, lay down sound ground rules before you go. Try to stick to one gift per trip and only gifts for close family members or kids of a similar age. You can steer them in the right direction during the process, but let them make the final decision. Your child will get a kick out of watching recipient’s excitement as they open the gift they specifically chose.
Clear Out the Baby Stuff
Since my kids are proud of being in the big kid stage, I figured the best place to start with a giving lesson was with their outgrown baby gear. My son and I spent a Saturday morning clearing out the baby bottles from the cabinet and boxing up old crib sheets and blankets. I swear he even looked a little nostalgic as he put his old stuffed bear in the box. But the look on his face when we dropped it off at the donation center, and he saw the families there who would benefit from his kindness was priceless. If you think your kids might balk at donating their favorite things, then I recommend trying this method since it helps ease them into the concept of giving.
Everyone Loves a Little Competition
If your kids are anything like mine, then they want for nothing more in this world than to be the winner. I usually discourage this kind of behavior between siblings. Except for when I can shift their inspiration from wanting to one-up each other to something more altruistic.
When my kids are doing their chores or helping around the house, I reward them by adding a small amount of money to their “Donation Jar.” At the end of each month, I let them count their stash and donate it to a charity of their choosing. It always ends in a win-win.
Make Giving a Daily Priority
The last thing you want is for your kids to think that giving just happens a few times a year when mom wants their closet cleaned out. Reinforce the concept that giving can involve small acts of kindness every day by asking your kids to perform one simple act and report it to everyone at dinner. From leaving a smiley face note in someone’s locker to sharing their dessert at lunch, your kids will come home with all kinds of happy surprises that they gave to make someone else’s day better.
Lead By Example
The most straight-forward, yet the easiest to take for granted — the best way to teach is always through example. Kids want for nothing more than to be just like their parents. So implement a plan to nurture a more giving spirit in your house, and not only will your kids soon follow, you will benefit from the bonding that comes from participating together as a whole family.
Jenny Silverstone is a mother of two, a blogger and a breastfeeding advocate. Motherhood has made Jenny more responsible than she ever thought she would be or wanted to be, for that matter. Find her writing, actionable parenting advice and buyer’s guides at MomLovesBest.com.