Gift giving is more than presents. When our children learn life skills, they are better equipped to give of themselves. This is just one of the 12 skills of Christmas!
‘Tis the season to … be running from store to store to get that one hot item for our kids for Christmas. Sadly, gift-giving has come to focus on gift-getting. Everywhere we take our children they are asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” I wonder what people would think if a six-year-old said, “I want to give my friend a box of books because they don’t have many books in their house. My friend likes to read.”
Learning to give rather than get is hard in our society, which puts emphasis on stuff … any kind of stuff. The saying “he who dies with the most toys wins” seems to be upper most in so many minds. We need to make a concerted effort to teach our children the best part is giving, not getting.
The act of giving has to be built on a foundation. The sooner this groundwork is laid, the more solid it will be. It’s never too late to begin, though. Let’s look at the foundation. The layers are love, help, share, and give.
Love – Whether it’s a gift of time or tangible item, it begins with love. How often do we think about giving something to someone we don’t like? Maybe we should do that more often. Never know where love can grow. Often we parents need to be reminded love is about the other person. Hmmm … isn’t a gift to be about the other person?
Love is caught not taught. Our children learn it from the way we treat each other in the family and how we parents treat our neighbors. Do you thank the young man who carried the groceries to the car because your arms were full of baby? Do you smile at strangers? It’s the little things that teach our children about love.
Help – The baby is crying. The mac and cheese is boiling over. Your little one asked if he can put the napkins on the table for you. What a gift of love. Wanting to help you when it seems crazy. Do children naturally ask to help? No. We can begin to teach them as soon as they are able to walk.
As your children grow, you’ll see them start to assist others without prompting. My boys loved going to sit with our next-door neighbor when his wife went to the store. He was wheelchair bound. Not only did they enjoy talking and learning from him, they loved him and his wife so much it was a pleasure to help. My guys gave the gift of love and time.
Share – Do your children ever sound like the sea gulls Nemo encountered? “Mine, mine, mine, mine.” Have you felt they will never learn to share? With the foundation of love and help, they will. Sharing probably takes the longest for children to learn. Let’s be honest. Sometimes we parents are reluctant to share as well.
Sharing is a gradual process, which can’t be forced. To young children, when another child plays with their toy, it can mean they will no longer own that toy. Teaching sharing may take years, depending on the maturity of the child. It’s such a foreign concept, we may as well be speaking in a different language when we tell our children to share their belongings.
The act of sharing starts with playing side by side. The children may be playing a different game, but they are playing together. Playing together with similar items (like coloring together) is the next step in sharing. Playing games, working puzzles together, or sharing an apple, are all beginning efforts of letting someone else use something of theirs. Most children don’t fully grasp the concept of sharing until the age of seven or eight. But when they learn to share, they’ve learned to put the other person ahead of their own desires.
Giving – Are you thinking it’s about time? Maybe you think it will take years before your child will learn to give and give graciously. Not so, young children delight in seeing another person happy when there’s an opportunity to give a gift. Who hasn’t received a bouquet of dandelions because our preschooler wanted to make us happy? How a about a handful of snails? True story, my friend’s four-year-old brought in a pile of snails so her mommy could play with them too.
As we emphasize giving is about the joy and pleasure of the other person, it will soon be natural. Giving takes effort, whether it’s gathering up snails, making a card, or picking out the perfect necklace. Our children learn their effort reaps rewards when they see the delight of the recipient.
Two cautions when teaching gift giving. Sometimes giving becomes a contest: Who can give the biggest or most expensive gift. Or what great gift will I get in return? Both of these attitudes takes the love out of giving.
It’s never too late to start teaching the traits that build up to giving. We can begin this holiday season by helping our children learn the fun of doing something or creating something for others. Maybe they can create a Santa list with the gifts they’d like to give others instead of what they want.
We give our children a lifetime gift by teaching them from the foundation of love it truly is “more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).
Gift-giving is more than presents. When our children learn life skills, they are better equipped to give of themselves. Set the table, make breakfast, change a tire, watch a baby are some of the life skills they can give. Skill Trek offers an easy and fun way for the family to learn together the knowledge needed to serve, give the gift of self. Skill Trek’s 12 Skills of Christmas includes gift-giving, setting up a neighborhood cookie exchange, and more ways to share with others during the holiday season. Learn how to get this skill pack free.
Susan K. Stewart teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. She is known for practical solutions to real-world situations. Susan is senior nonfiction editor with Elk Lake Publishing, blog content manager for Mount Hermon Writers Conference blog, and has published five books, including the Science in the Kitchen: Fearless Science for All Ages and Preschool: At What Cost?. She also teaches workshops for moms and homeschoolers online and in person. Susan lives in Central Texas with her husband, Bob, three dogs, three cats, nine chickens, and two donkeys. The Stewarts have three children and five grandchildren. You can read more of Susan’s practical solutions at www.practicalinspirations.com.