By Maureen Monfore, www.ChildwiseChat.com
The holidays are upon us! How will your children handle the holiday?
In many homes, Christmas becomes all about the gifts: shopping, wrapping, and receiving. And for children especially, who aren’t necessarily involved in the shopping, Christmas is an indulgent time that’s all about receiving. I’ve seen many a child who opens a gift and tosses it aside to open the next one.
Christmas is a fun time with children, but it also makes parents cringe when they think of how her children might react to their various gifts. Will he say “thank you” for every gift? Will he even acknowledge the giver? Will he stop to express sincere gratitude before moving on to the next gift? Will he say something special like, “I’ve always wanted this.”
Don’t leave this to chance. Don’t teach gratitude in the moment. Plan ahead and start teaching the value of giving and receiving now.
Every year, I like to take the time to assess my kids and how they might behave at Christmas. I want to make sure they will give and receive at Christmas with grace and gratitude. My children are 8 and 5 now, so they should be old enough to understand the value of giving and receiving, but I’m not going to leave it to chance. In fact, as children get older, they tend to get a little greedier.
When my boys were little, they would open one present and go off to play with it. The adults would encourage the child to open the next gift, since the idea is that we all sit around and open gifts at the same time. Honestly, though, I’d prefer that they open one gift at a time. It can help mitigate that greediness.
So over the years, my kids have learned that opening gifts is part of our Christmas tradition. And they know enough to expect several gifts. They are also involved in the process of creating a Christmas list. While everyone likes to know what my children like, I’m beginning to think that the Christmas list isn’t such a good idea. It sets the expectation that they can request their gifts and that they will receive everything on their lists. Last year, I cringed when William said something like, “I didn’t want this.” It was an innocent comment; he just thought he was only getting what was on his list, and the gift wasn’t something he put on his list. Sadly, I had to teach him in the moment, in front of the giver.
It’s moments like that that have taught me that I need to train my children in how to behave at Christmas. I need to shape their attitudes.
So how do I do this?
First of all, have a dialogue about the reason for the holiday. We discuss what will happen and why we give and receive gifts. We explain how other family members will feel when they give my kids gifts.
Then, we do a little role-playing. It’s a good idea to sit around on the floor, opening imaginary presents. I like to play the bad kid, and show them what it’s like to say insensitive things after they give me a gift. Then we’ll try again, and I’ll be the good kid. Make the experience fun to make it memorable.
I also make a point, in these last few days before Christmas, to remind them to say thank you at every turn. Whether I’m getting them a glass of water or making cookies with them, I have them say thank you. If I get any negative attitude about this, I stop to explain the reason for gratitude.
Then on Christmas morning, before opening gifts, explain again what it means to give and receive. Remind the child of the role-playing you did and give all indications that now is the time to display grace and gratitude.
One final thing to teach is the sign language sign for thank you. If you have done all your teaching and the child still forgets to say thank you after opening a gift, you can stand behind the receiver, call the child’s name, get his eye contact, and quietly do the sign. Your child then gets a cue to say thank you without you having to verbally remind him in front of the giver.
Maureen Monfore is the author of www.ChildwiseChat.com and the eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience. A mother to two young boys, Maureen recognizes the value of obedience and heart training in our children. She relies on the teachings of Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo to show her the way. Her eBook is currently on sale for the holidays, for $7.99, which is 20% off the regular price.