The holiday season, for all its joy and wonder, has an insidious way of bringing out a terrible quality in our children: greed. No, no parent intentionally raises greedy children. In fact, the majority of us go above and beyond to teach our children to show appreciation and gratitude all year round. But during a season where our children are being bombarded with messages of you need this, and you can’t live without that, and where classmates are bragging about I got this and can you believe Santa got me that, our children’s greed levels tend to rise…as their gratitude levels tend to fall.
If you’re a chronic over-giver, forcing yourself to give less during the holidays is hard. But spoiling our children, while it may make us feel good initially, can cause long-term developmental issues: dependency; irresponsibility; defiance; disrespect; and poor relationship skills, etc.
Here are five ways that we can encourage our children to develop an attitude of gratitude during the holidays:
3. Get your children involved in holiday gift-giving. Let them write a list of people they would like to give gifts to, and what they would like to give them. Then, keep them involved: wrapping, ribbons, the card…all the way down to actually handing the gift to the recipient. Note how excited they are to give this person the gift! After being involved in the entire gift-giving process, your children will truly understand what it means when people say “to give is to receive.”
4. Encourage random acts of kindness. Have them clean the snow off your neighbor’s car, or do some volunteer work at a local animal shelter. Challenge your children to perform one small act of kindness every day, and talk about how it made them feel.
5. Have holiday-ish experiences. The holidays aren’t about gift-giving and spending and spoiling—they’re about spending time with the people you care about, and making memories that will last a lifetime. Get into the spirit! Wear your holiday pajamas as your drive around town scoping out the best decorated houses, or decorate holiday cookies or cupcakes together. Get silly. Blast Christmas carols, have a Christmas carol dance-off…
As counselors, we work with many parents and children. We understand that, as a parent, over-giving is a natural instinct to show our children love and affection. But spoiled children don’t grow up grateful—they grow up greedy. This holiday season, let’s start a tradition of spending less and appreciating more.
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