We don’t live near family, so a few years ago we decided to add Christmas to our annual trip to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving with my family.
Because my parents divorced when I was young, we have Christmas get-together at two different houses. As you can imagine, since my parents don’t get to see their grandkids on a regular basis—and their love language happens to be giving presents—our kids are lovingly showered in gifts. That’s not to mention the presents from aunts, uncles, and yes, great grandparents too.
As we left Pennsylvania this year, our hearts were truly grateful for the love showered on our kids. Since my dad passed away last year, some of the toys he picked for the kids years prior are still deeply cherished—and will be for a long time.
But as parents, we found ourselves talking about one primary concern on the drive home.
Our three and five-year-old were fixated on “opening more presents.” I’m not talking in an entitled, bratty sort of way. The actual opening of presents was about “what’s next,” rather than “thank you for this super cool race track.” In many instances, our kids were just so excited about opening presents they barely knew what present they even received.
And the problem for us is that Christmas hasn’t even come yet!
Since then, Christi and I have talked quite a bit about how to both honor our family’s love for giving, but also teach our kids that giving is more important than receiving.
Here are a few steps we’ve taken since coming back from Thanksgiving.
- Have your kids use their own money to buy presents for others.
To really help our kids understand the power of giving, we have to give them opportunities to give. However, truly giving of ourselves costs us something. We spend time to help a friend move. We spend emotional energy walking a family member through grief. We spend money and creative energy buying a gift.
The more investment our children have in giving up some of their own money, picking the gift out at the store, and then wrapping the present, the more exciting it is to give the present. This is why so many of us cannot wait until the actual day to give the gift we purchased. We can’t wait to see the look on the recipient’s face or his or her reaction!
Since we got back, Landon and Kennedy both spent their own money picking out gifts for one another. Those gifts are currently hiding under their own beds awaiting wrapping paper and Christmas morning.
- Expose your kids to the needs of the world around them.
Let’s be honest, the fact that we have to teach our kids that giving is better than receiving speaks of the privilege we have.
In partnership with our church and a local crisis pregnancy center, we adopted a single mom and her three children this year for Christmas. Her kids are similar in age to our kids, so we are including our kids in buying gifts and helping this family in need.
You can also expose your kids by volunteering at a homeless shelter or a local food pantry. Teach them about kids who don’t have moms and dads. We serve on the board for Exile International, an organization helping former child soldiers become leaders for peace. Invite your kids into the stories of kids you may sponsor as well.
Exposing our kids to the needs of the world around us is what provides them perspective on why giving matters.
- Have your kids pick out toys they don’t want to give to other kids in need.
Not a day after we got home I asked our kids to find toys they wanted to give away to other kids. “But why, Dad,” they said with a whine.
Our problem was that they just received gifts without having seen the needs of others. The single mom we helped this Christmas provided opportunity to introduce our kids to other kids who would enjoy those toys so much more.
Before Christmas this year, purge your playrooms and closets. Make room in your house—and hearts—for those in need.
Because we cannot forget that, at the end of the day, we are all spiritually poor and in need. Yet, Christmas provides us the Gift we do not deserve—and the one that cost God everything—Jesus, our Savior.
Teaching our kids about giving begins first by receiving—receiving Jesus into their hearts. Because when we receive Him into our hearts, giving takes on a whole new meaning.
Josh + Christi Straub lead 22:6 Parenting, an online community of parents who journey alongside one another to disciple their kids. With monthly content, coaching videos, and live Q & A with Christi and Josh, 22:6 Parenting provides practical tools to raise kids who love God and love others. You can learn more at www.226parenting.com.
Joshua Straub, Ph.D. serves as Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and is the President and Cofounder of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower families to live, love, and lead well. He is author/coauthor of four books including Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well. Josh and his Canadian bride, Christi, reside in Nashville with their son, Landon, and daughter, Kennedy. You can listen to Dr. Josh + Christi on their podcast or watch them on Facebook Live talking about marriage and parenting in the 21st century.