When we got home, I tried to explain to her that we needed
to help others. We started by going through her toys and deciding what she
needed and what she didn’t play with any more. She got excited about giving
toys to “little babies.” But again, when the moment came to give the toys up,
she was in tears. She demanded that Santa, mommies and daddies and Jesus all
should give toys to other kids, but she didn’t have to.
I grew up one of eight children. Many of our Christmases
were sparse, but I never remember feeling disappointed when my gifts were
homemade or hand-me downs. And while I am
so happy I have the ability to buy presents for my children (and I am going
to), I also want them to understand the value of giving.
While my husband and I have made monthly giving a line-item
in our budget, we don’t really talk about it. But I realized perhaps our lack
of PR was hurting our daughter who, at 3, sounded more like Ebenezer
Scrooge than Santa.
I didn’t realize how hard I had been pushing the idea of giving until a few weeks ago when my daughter reached into her pocket and handed one of her teachers a fistful of pennies.
Expert advice suggests to build on a child’s natural
instinct for giving and to make it relatable. So, we started by buying a
Christmas present for her little brother. Granted, he isn’t a charity case. But
she loves to give him things. She is always wadding up balls of paper, because
as she says, “You wike balls, bubba!” So, together, she and I went out and
picked a present for him. We talked a lot about the things he likes and I tried
to steer her to picking a present for him. At first, she was sure he wanted a
princess doll. But the more we talked, she changed her mind and picked out a
toy phone with a lot of buttons.
Then, we picked out a present for her dad. She was indignant
that we had to pick between socks or a blue shirt, but again, we talked about
thinking about other people and what they
want. When we approached the register with a boring blue shirt, she sighed and
told the clerk, “My daddy only wants dis. He so silly.”
Acting on the advice of a friend, we also partnered with a
local charity to buy presents for a child in town. The child was anonymous, so
I made up a name for her, and took my daughter out to shop for “Sarah.” And my
daughter seemed excited. She didn’t even once ask for a gift for herself, which
I consider a major coup.
Advice I read also suggests to start lessons about giving in
a small way. So, she and I have been making cookies while the baby sleeps and
giving them to our neighbors. I love the proud look she has on her face when
she hands off plates of enthusiastically sprinkled gingerbread men.
I am not pretending to have all the answers, and of course,
my child is little. We are going to have to do these things over and over until
it all sinks in. But I’m learning that perhaps our giving should be more of a
family affair—something we talk about and share together and something I start
letting my kids have more of a say in.
I didn’t realize how hard I had been pushing the idea of
giving until a few weeks ago when my daughter reached into her pocket and
handed one of her teachers a fistful of pennies. “Here you go,” she said
soberly, “I have lots of money and I don’t fink you have any. So, dis is for
I was mortified, but also proud. And the teacher was
amazing. She took the grubby pennies and thanked my daughter for her giving
heart. “Was that nice?” My daughter asked me later. “Was it nice when I gave my
“What do you think?” I responded.
“Yes, it nice to give people fings.”
And she’s exactly right. I hope she never forgets that.
Condescension is a lesson we will have to work on later, though.