Thursday, December 23, 2010

christmas giving

When I became a mother, I developed a renewed appreciationg for Christmas and the holiday season. I remember the excitement of Christmas when I was a child. We decorated the Christmas tree, had big family dinners and enjoyed opening a few presents. A few times, Santa Claus made a special appearance during dinner and gave the presents to us personally! Now that my children are aware of the holiday season and understand who Santa Claus is, I get to live the excitement through them and find joy in doing things with them like baking cookies, wraping presents and decorating the tree.

The holiday season also makes me more aware of my responsibility to teach them lessons about appreciating what they have, understanding the value of giving, and finding joy in sharing time with friends and family. I was just listening to NPR and caught the tailend of a program where a psychologist talked about how children who get a lot of presents for Christmas and in general tend to be less satisfied and less happy. The reason behind it is that they see having everything as the status quo. They expect to have everything, and don't appreciate the effort behind it.

Now that my children are toddlers, my husband and I easily implement the giving guidelines. We give them modests gifts, focus on didactic toys and activities, and apply the rule of "one in-one out" (if they get a new toy, an old one goes to charity). I do wonder, however, what challenges we will face as they grow older and start to compare what they have to what other children have, on their own or because their friends point it out.

The messages we give everyday about appreciating what we have, the importance of being a good person, the focus on substantial character rather than material qualities in others and in themselves will have to be strong and consistent. A child who feels entitled is just a brat, but an adult who grew up feeling that way is usually unhappy and unkind. Their feelings of worth are connected to what they have and, interestingly, the can never have enough. I want my children to be kind, empathetic and happy. Now I just have to figure out how to best help them grow  up to be that way.


  1. Wow, we have a lot in common. I've been married six years (seven come july 10) and we have a terrible two's toddler right now.:) I knew before I had my baby what I needed to make sure of doing and I can see where that poll for everything for Xmas fits in. When I was small, I felt very excited about getting one gift from Santa because my family wasn't the richest.

    Now enter my husband's side who has older children. They are spoiled with a capital T. One year their grandfather (now passed on sadly) bought them a teddybear and they looked at it, tossed it aside without even a thank you and went after their next presents.

    They've grown up more and now realize what's really important (especially since he is now gone.) I don't really want my daughter to learn the hard way though, so I am following the same rule you do. One out-one in. Without it, our toddler would have way too many toys in this house.

    Merry Christmas, and I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday.:)

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. It's nice to know that other moms think about this as well. Have a wonderful Christmas also!

  3. I think you have a great start on raising grateful and generous children. That training will do them good no matter what other kids (or people) try to say is better. Keep up the good work!! Visiting from SITS.