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A Teaching Moment: Emphasizing the Holiday Spirit

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It is hard to avoid asking whether consumerism has resulted in a loss of holiday spirit. These days so many of us are ‘material girls.’ Not too long ago we lacked cell phones or tablets, texting or video chatting. We made it a point to stay connected to those we loved but did so when we found the opportunity; put succinctly we did not necessarily attend to life in real time.

Our children live in a world in which what you see is what you can get, or so we have led them to assume. Has this easy access world resulted in a lack of gratefulness or encouraged our kids to seem entitled? Concepts like this are difficult to define. Instead perhaps we are best served focusing on what we can do not on what we can’t.

Kids look to their parents to model behaviors and offer explanations and cues about the world in which they live. Parents always have an opportunity, a responsibility to teach their children about the things in life that should really matter. This holiday season offers a wonderful way to ‘flip the script’ on the gift giving season. Instead of asking our children what they want, we should instead encourage them to offer something they can do for others in the true spirit of the gift-giving season.

The reality of course is that we have raised our children to define the holidays at least in part; in terms of the presents they will receive.

As a parent there are few greater joys than pleasing your child. To ask our children to suddenly expect nothing from us for the holidays would certainly seem harsh and even cruel. Perhaps the best approach is to strike a balance between what we are willing to give them, and asking them what they are willing to give to others. Towards this end, here are some hints on how to avoid entitled expectation while encouraging cheer and good will:

1.) Let them know the limits of their gift list upfront. Instead of giving it all to them, ask them to identify the one or two items at the top of their list.

2.) Refrain from giving them everything they want. The holidays provide a good opportunity to teach limits.

3.) Encourage them to discuss what they would like to do to give back during the holiday season.

4.) Establish new traditions (or continue with old ones) that focus on helping others.

5.) Emphasize the idea of helping oneself by developing a healthy lifestyle; eating right and exercising, enjoying the outdoors, interacting with others directly (e.g. face-to-face not via technology).

6.) Set aside family time. Find activities and projects in which to engage together.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen, organize a holiday food and/or gift drive, when you join with your children to provide good will and happiness to others, you encourage altruism (helping others for the sake of helping). You offer your children the greatest gift of all when you engage them in helping others. There are few greater joys than that of giving back. When you model the art of kindness, you emphasize humanity instead of entitlement. This holiday season is a great time to ask our kids not what they want, but what they are willing to give.



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