…there’s a lot of bad ‘isms’ floatin’ around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism.”-Alfred the janitor in “Miracle on 34th Street”
For the last several months, the media has bombarded our children with messages about the “best” games or the “hottest” toys. We are told to “buy, buy, buy” so our children will be the truly happy. Parents struggle to find the perfect gifts so that they don’t disappoint their children. Yet, a cry goes up “That’s not what I wanted!”
Whoa! Let’s take a step back here. A gift is just that…a gift. It is a simple act of thoughtfulness from one person to another. Sometimes this gift is wrapped in a box, sometimes in a plate of cookies, sometimes in an act of kindness. Some of these gifts will be highly treasured, others seemingly unwanted. So, how do we help our children recognize the thoughtfulness of the gift giver, when they don’t like the gift?
Our children are not gracious beings. They didn’t come out of the womb being kind, generous, or thankful. We have to teach them with our words and our behavior. Here are some tips you may find helpful:
- First of all, acknowledge all gifts that you receive, great and small. Use words like, “It was thoughtful of Mike to shovel our walk today.”
- Model saying “thank you” for everyday things in your life. As your child helps set the table, remember to say “Thank you, son. That was very helpful.”
- As your child opens his gifts, tell him who the gift is from. For family present at the gift opening, prompt your child to thank the giver for the gift immediately.
- For gifts from loved ones far away, help your child place a phone call or video chat to say thank you.
- For Great-Aunt Mary, whom your child may not know, help him write a thank you note several days after the holiday. Encourage him to thank her for her thoughtfulness even if the plastic “nuts and bolts” are for a much younger child. If Great-Aunt Mary is “plugged in”, an email message may be fine.
- Finally, as you receive the gift of a paper maché star from the First Grade class project, thank your child and give the gift a prominent place on the mantel or the end table. He will take his cues from you throughout his life. Make sure you are the kind of person you want him to become.