With the overwhelming options available at toy stores, supermarkets and everywhere in between, do you ever look at your child and wonder, “Can I raise a giving child in today’s world?”. Definitely! There are new attitudes and habits you can adopt at home to be sure your child does not fall into a pattern of spoiled behavior. Some of them might really surprise you.
Especially during the holiday season, it can become a bit overwhelming with gift giving for both parents and kids. As parents we have thoughts about whether we are spoiling our kids, how many gifts to give and how do we help our kids feel thankful for what they get.
According to Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the healthy development of kids and families, young children under the age of 3 usually don’t show much outward behavior of thankfulness or appreciation before the age of 3.
Here are some things you can do to help instill the idea of thankfulness in your child’s early years:
In general, not just during the holidays, it’s a good idea to keep the number of toys your child plays with at a given time limited to a few items. Young children are overwhelmed when they have too much stuff to play with and really don’t end up engaging with their toys. I’m sure we’ve all been there when our kids have spent less than 30 minutes on a new toy. Try to keep toys few and varied, at any given time. Make sure they are in a clear and neat space so your child can play with them easily. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy new ones, but simply rotate toys every few weeks to keep them from getting bored.
Make a Giving List
Talk to your child about making a giving list. For every item in a gift list, they can think of something to give in return. It can be toy, chores or cleaning their room, old clothes or anything else. You can help out by writing the list down and crossing items off as they get done. Remember this is not a reward or chore chart, it’s simply a way to help your child think of giving while receiving.
A simple and easy strategy is to model your thankfulness in dealing with your child. We often take children’s good behavior for granted and also tend to expect them to be the ones saying “thank you” and “please”. Model the same behavior to your child by saying thank you and please and thank you for helping you out, cleaning up toys or for just playing on their own for a bit while you get something done. Also, show appreciation for the effort your child puts into what they do.
It can be hard to expect children to be thankful and not go crazy in the toy store when we, as adults, are regularly shopping and buying ourselves. Children learn a lot about how they should behave by watching the grownups around them. While you may need to go shopping or get errands done with your child try to focus more on quality experiences rather than purchasing ones. Go to the zoo, visit a friend, make a holiday craft or gift for the family or each other.
Reading is always a great way to teach children life lessons. You can read the book multiple times to give your child a chance to think about the story and ask questions. You can also reference the story characters in real life to help your child make sense of a situation.
Make Thankfulness a Habit
Try to make thankfulness a habit and not something to focus on just around the holidays. Practice all the above tips during the year as much as possible. If you can’t do something special in a given week you can simply have a weekly dinner where each family member talks about what they are thankful for. It can be something as simple as having a good day.