from the Dec 2016 / January 2017 issue of the PTS Bulletin

Raising a Grateful Child, Despite the ‘Gimmes’ in the Air

We know that the real pleasure of the holiday is in giving — but how do we instill that feeling in our kids who love getting as well? The holiday season is the perfect time to reinforce your family values, deflect spoiling and avoid a house full of useless gifts.

We all want our kids to appreciate the gifts that often go along with Hanukkah. But with the sensory-laden malls filled with toys, gifts, goodies and the much anticipated Toys-R-Us holiday catalog, it’s hard to create a grateful spirit when there is so much “gimme-gimme” in the air.

We know that the real pleasure of the holiday is in giving — but how do we instill that feeling in our kids who love getting as well? The holiday season is the perfect time to reinforce your family values, deflect spoiling and avoid a house full of useless gifts.

Here are tips from the experts on how to celebrate during the holidays, but stay grounded.

1. Set Limits

Children truly want boundaries. Set limits for yourself as well as your nanny and family members as to the cost and number of gifts your children will receive. It is hard for a child to stay excited and grateful for their gifts if there are too many of them.

2. Choose Meaningful Presents

Companies spend billions in advertising to your kids, especially during the holiday season. Kids are going to ask you for many toys that dazzle them, but it’s important to give them an item that speaks to what their true passions and hobbies are.

3. Give Back

There is no better way to help raise a grateful child than to show them how fortunate they are. It is important to incorporate charitable giving into your holiday routine. There are so many ways you can involve your child directly in helping others and teach them how good that feels. When your child grasps the pleasure of giving, it makes Hanukkah more rewarding. But, it can take practice and plenty of opportunities to develop that appreciation. Try sorting through last year’s winter coats and toys that have faded out of rotation and ask them to help choose which ones will be given to a children’s organization. If possible, deliver presents and take the time to watch others unwrap them. That will allow your children to experience the happiness and joy they have given someone else. Keep the spirit alive all year by asking all family members to place lose change in a tzedakah jar. Come December everyone can decide where to give the money.

4. Create Family Rituals

Children want your time more than gifts. Don’t focus on the eight days of unwrapping, rather put emphasis on the things and values your family loves the most. Plan for one of your nights of Hanukkah to be a family movie night, hike, spontaneous adventure, cookie decorating or a meal out. Your children will anticipate and remember the bond these special times created more than a gift that lasts a few months. Remember, rituals and celebrations do not have to be complicated to be rewarding.

5. Model Gratitude

Children are born entitled. They are surrounded by adults who cater to their needs. When teaching gratitude you must think of it as an art form that needs to be taught and one that will take time and commitment. Just like learning to play the piano takes practice, so does learning to be grateful. Have your children discuss what they are grateful for before going to bed. As they get older, make a gratitude journal to write down what they appreciate in their lives. When you open a gift, make sure to express your gratitude. Role model appropriate things to say when someone does something kind for you. Let your children see you writing thank you cards and include them in the process if you can. A very young child can help pick out a sticker for Bubbe’s thank you card and understand the importance of saying thank you. As with everything with children, the earlier you start teaching gratitude, the more likely is will become a habit. Helping your children be grateful people can be hard, but it is well work the effort.