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101 Days of Christmas: Gift Giving Traditions

The following post is from Jennifer, a lifelong educator:

Christmas giving
source: Jennifer

It’s completely normal for children to be egocentric when they’re born, but they aren’t supposed to stay that way.  It’s our job as parents to help them cross the bridge from selfishness to generosity.  The gift-giving traditions you embrace at Christmas can help move your kids in a positive direction.

We’ve all watched children who squeal with delight when they open a long-anticipated present.  That’s wonderful, as long as getting isn’t the only thing our kids think about.

How can parents teach their children to enjoy both receiving and giving gifts during the Christmas season?

Two Traditions to Consider

1.  In our family, we focused on who the gift was from instead of who the gift was to.  It was a simple change, but one that I believe had a profound impact.  We passed out the gifts one at a time, saying “This is from fill in the blank,” and watched as the recipient opened it.

At an early age, our sons became aware of the pleasure derived from giving things that made others smile.  Conversations in December included talk about what kind of present they could get or make for someone.  They loved to be able to say, “This one’s from me,” when handing a present to a beloved grandparent.  Even now as adults, they are both thoughtful gift-givers.

2.  I was always intrigued by the tradition of a close friend.  Their family chose to model their gift-giving after the three Wise Men.  Each child was given three gifts.  The gifts fell into three categories:

A Need

Depending on your financial situation, this might be something like a winter coat or a new shirt.

A Want

This family let their children make a wish list, which helped the parents make sure it was actually a “want.”  Because the children knew they were only going to receive one thing from their list, they didn’t put anything frivolous on it, only those things that they truly desired.

A Surprise

You could make this something big or small.  You might even choose to make this a family gift, like a trip together to a special place.

There are lots of ways to handle presents at Christmas and none are inherently right or wrong.  No one thing that we do as parents will cause our kids to turn out like we hope they will.  But, as a thoughtful parent, it’s important to remember that family traditions can have a positive impact on who they become as adults. 

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Jennifer is passionate about children and education. She homeschooled her two sons for five years, established and directed a Christian school in Maryland for 20 years, and currently teaches in a public school in a Chicago suburb. She loves investing in relationships and delights in every moment that she spends with her family.