It Is Better To Give?
For many children the focus of the holiday season seems to be on
"getting." They pore over catalogs. They carefully attend to
television advertisements. They poll friends to determine peer group
preferences. All this enables them to put together a list of their most
desirable toys, games and gifts.
Some children even provide parents with a list that is prioritized and
that includes information on price and location: buying for them can be a
no-fuss, no-muss operation for parents and other gift givers.
We help children learn to concentrate on their own gifts by encouraging
the list making and by quizzing them about their wishes. It is easy to
make children the focus of this season. The down-side is that it can
encourage children to be selfish and to believe that their major goal
should be to collect more and better gifts than their siblings and peers.
These are not the values that most families want to teach.
If families want to reduce the emphasis on selfishness, more attention
needs to be given to helping children learn to focus on the needs and
wishes of others. Instead of focusing only on what the child will get, he
or she can be helped to think about giving to others. In most communities
there is no shortage of families in need. During the holidays many
agencies and organizations offer programs to provide assistance to these
families -- "Caring Connections", Salvation Army's "Giving
Tree", Santa Anonymous, homeless shelters to name a few. Also many
churches have gift and food programs in which their members participate.
These programs provide an opportunity for children to learn about the
value of giving, not just to their own family and friends, but to others
who may have less than they do. Some families, as part of teaching a child
about money management, have their children save part of their allowance
in a special category called "Giving." This money can be used by
the child to participate in one of these seasonal gift-giving programs. If
a child has not been a saver, a parent can choose to provide money for
this participation, though this is not as effective since the child does
not have a very active role: he simply uses his parents' resources. The
more active the involvement of the child, the more effective the learning
will be. Perhaps the child could be allowed to earn some money for this
purpose from parents by doing some special tasks. Or she may have
resources like a piggy bank or may decide to give up one of her gifts in
order to "free up" some funds. This is an important decision
making process. The child should participate in the purchase, in wrapping,
and in delivering the gift to the agency.
In families where giving to others has become a tradition, children
often seem to enjoy the process as much as they do receiving their own
gifts. Even preschool children can begin to experience the importance of
sharing with others. They may not be reading newspaper articles, but they
can be a "Secret Santa" to a family member. A "Secret
Santa" gives gifts throughout the holiday season by doing nice and
unexpected things, like making a bed, walking the dog, or carrying out the
trash and recycling.
The holidays are a time when children can begin to experience the truth
of the adage that it is better to give than to receive. They may not
believe you when they start, but they can begin the process.
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC.
Source: Adapted from Ann Mullis. "Because I Said So". North
Dakota State University Extension Service.