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Child receiving a gift (©Noam Armonn/Bigstock)

Teaching gratitude in a culture of consumerism

By Michelle Richards

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We all want our children to develop an attitude of gratitude, but there is a lot working against us in this department. Bombarded with messages celebrating consumerism, children may find it hard to be grateful. After all, obtaining material goods often seems to be the meaning of the holidays.

Countless parents have experienced dismay and embarrassment when their child opens a gift and, instead of saying “Thank You,” utters an exasperated, “I already have this.” Even a child who is naturally generous and giving may simply smile and set a less desirable present aside in the rush to unwrap another.

Beyond explaining gift etiquette and how one should respond even if a gift is unwanted, parents can model generosity. Our children watch what we do, so be sure to let them witness our own acts of kindness to others, particularly strangers or others in need. Our children also need to witness us giving money to the charities we support and volunteering for non-profit organizations—including our congregations.

As a present for birthdays, holidays, or on some other occasion, instead of getting one more toy or other item which will soon be discarded, parents can ask extended family members to consider giving a certificate to your child with the promise that you will give a set amount of money to a charity of their choice. If they are not sure which charity to support, investigate some possibilities with them. For example, the website CharityChoice offers a choice of more than 100 charities in 12 different categories.

Generosity doesn’t involve only financial giving. Helping others, either through random acts of kindness or through volunteering your time, is being generous, too. Talk to your children about the causes you support and why you give them your time and money. Think about the ways you can involve them in your volunteer opportunities in age-appropriate ways.

Finally, it’s important not to overlook the value of writing and sending thank-you notes for the gifts our children receive. As soon as they are able to write somewhat legibly and without a great deal of difficulty, children can write simple thank-you notes to express their appreciation for the gifts they receive. Grandma and Grandpa will be thrilled at the prospect and parents of similar-aged children will be impressed, but even the simple act of creating the thank-you cards speaks to the intentionality of recognizing the kindness of others. After all, gratitude is the loving twin of generosity. When we feel grateful, we are often generous—and when we are feeling generous, it helps us be grateful.

Photo above ©Noam Armonn/Bigstock

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