I don’t know about you, but the holidays were crazy at my house. There was a constant flow of family members in and out. There was endless meal-prep to be done and gifts to purchase and wrap. Oh, the gifts! The sea of gifts that filled our living room had me feeling grateful, but also hesitant.
Had we overdone it? Would our kids just tear through the gifts like tornadoes, or would we see genuinely grateful children come Christmas morning? Should we have stuck with the Want, Need, Wear, Read rule of thumb?
In the past, my young son has opened a present and either cast it aside without any excitement or asked the giver, “Did you get me anything else?”
My heart would sink and there was a twinge of embarrassment that he didn’t show any gratitude. Luckily, this hasn’t happened often. When it does, I try to draw his attention back to the gift and how thoughtful it is. Even if he is given a pair of pajamas he’s not super thrilled about, I’d still like my son to at least be polite!
Leading up to the holidays we had many conversations about being grateful when receiving a present. I realized it is easy to tell a child to say “thank you” but they may not fully understand the importance of showing gratitude until they are on the giving end of a gift. So, I included my son in picking out presents for his cousins and brothers. All of a sudden, he wasn’t solely focused on packages with his name under the tree. He was excited to see the reactions of each person he had specifically picked out a present for. And he also felt a bit sad when the reaction wasn’t as big as he had hoped. I wanted my 7 year-old to experience both sides of gift-giving.
Aside from gifts and holidays, I’ve tried to encourage grateful children in everyday situations. I am adamant about my kids saying “please” and “thank you” for even small things or actions.
If I bring them a snack and juice, a simple “thank you, Mom” is nice to hear (I may have shouted “thanks Mom, you’re the best!” once or twice to help them get the idea). It’s good for my boys to get in the habit of saying “thank you” and being grateful to the people taking care of them.
But going back to Christmas- I was afraid the onslaught of toys and presents would numb my boys to the importance of each gift. That was, until my 3 year-old son opened a package of Matchbox cars. He tore open the paper and let out an audible gasp. It was a package of 20 cars, but you would’ve thought it was gold. He hugged it tight to his body and squealed, “I’m sooo lucky!” His grandmother who gave him the cars started beaming and I had tears in my eyes.
My son’s reaction was everything I had hoped for and more. Seeing how grateful he was over a pack of tiny cars, I felt like I had achieved a new parenting win! Grateful children was a wonderful holiday win for this mom.
As we move away from the holidays, I still want my children to be grateful for the people and things in their lives. Hopefully, I can instill this in their heads and hearts while they are little, so that as they grow they are mindful of the givers as well as the gift.