Instant gratification has no worth in shaping children into productive well-balanced adults. And opening all his Christmas gifts in one session doesn’t give him the chance to appreciate each present he gets. But if you let your child open one gift each half hour or hour, he learns the value of waiting, he gets to enjoy each gift for its own merits, and he will actually remember what he got that morning. So, when he thanks Aunt Mary for his bath soap paints, he will do it because he truly wants to thank her.
Do you find yourself forever telling your child there is more to Christmas than presents, yet unable to get him to recognize anything else about the season? It is possible to help him find other parts of this special time of year to celebrate. One of the things we did for my nephew was giving him a budget and taking him to the dollar store when he was young and a discount store when he was older and letting him choose gifts for friends and family. He was allowed to choose anything he wanted within his budget. I still remember the Christmas when he was four years old. On Christmas eve when he was supposed to choose one gift to open before bed, he handed gifts to the family to open. He was so excited about the sunglasses he bought his father, the towel he bought his nana, the musical tie he bought for Papa, and the coffee mug he had chosen for his mother, that he wanted them to feel the same joy he felt. Each year he could barely wait to see everyone’s reactions to the gifts he bestowed.
Another way to teach the joy of giving is one that became a favorite tradition for my niece. I always carried a Christmas bag filled with candy canes, pens, or some other little give away trinkets. I would hand them out to friends and occasionally random people I crossed paths with through my day. My niece loved to join me on a shopping trip or other excursion because she saw how thrilled someone was to accept these little gifts. When she was with me, my bag emptied twice as quickly. She did not whine to go to the toy department, she spent her time catching people’s eyes and wishing them a merry Christmas as she offered them a candy cane. My tradition became her favorite part of Christmas.
If you asked my nephew what his favorite part of the holiday was, he would answer cooking dinner. Sure, he liked the gifts he got but he loved helping me cook the dinner. My nephew’s help may have slowed me down just a bit in the kitchen and made me prepare some ingredients beforehand, for instance, dicing the vegetables and having them ready in the refrigerator, but it was well worth it. We had fun together while he learned to follow the directions and steps of recipes, practiced math and science skills, and expressed some creativity. Cooking those meals together creating wonderful bonding time and built his self-esteem. He was so proud of the food he cooked and always had seconds of the dishes he made even the broccoli casserole. He loved it when family members raved over some dish and it happened to be one of the ones he had assisted me to cook.
Teaching your child to appreciate that there is more to Christmas than presents has to be more than lip-service, whatever it is you choose to do, you must actually do it. If a child doesn’t do anything more than get gifts, how can he learn that there is anything else to experience? Can you have your child help with wrapping or decorating? What about a Christmas eve family game night? Can your child choose a gift for a less fortunate child, join you in cleaning the house, or serving in a ministry? These were just a few ideas that worked for me, you may have your own traditions you could incorporate your child into actively. I would love to hear some of them.