The holiday season is almost upon us, and for most of us this means hours spent searching online and jostling through crowds at the mall, looking for gifts to get for our friends and family members. Whether we’re looking for a new smarthphone or an amethyst ring, a basketball hoop or a pair of running shorts, we’re probably participating headlong in the materialist culture that reaches its zenith around the holidays.
Of course, buying a gift for someone close to us goes beyond the issue of materialism and, instead, represents just one way that we can tell this person how much they mean to us. Most adults understand this, and realize that the act of giving can be far more valuable than the actual gift itself.
But, if you’re like me, most of your holiday season gift purchases are going to be given to your kids. Your kids will certainly enjoy and appreciate their presents, but they are less likely to understand the positives of gift-giving and more likely to get sucked up into its materialism. How can we combat this? How can we give our children gifts while also teaching them lessons of value? While it’s difficult to teach appreciation, it’s easier to use gift-giving as a way to make your children more responsible, less materialistic, and hopefully more respectful in the process. Here are some ideas I have in mind:
Make It A Two-Way Street
In many families, the parents buy presents for the children but the children offer nothing in return. This is understandable, in a sense, since your young kids probably do not have the income to purchase gifts or the driver’s license to go pick them out. But a gift can just as easily be a card, a picture, or a collage, and by encouraging your kids to make such presents for your spouse you can teach them reciprocity and the important lesson that it often truly is the thought that counts
Give Them A Budget
This is probably best suited for older children, but giving your kids a budget for their presents can teach them that nothing is free, nobody can get everything they want, and that all gifts have a value and should not be taken lightly. You can go about doing this by telling your kids before the holidays that they can make a list of present requests – but that the list, on an aggregate level, cannot exceed a certain monetary amount. While you won’t simply buy everything on the list (after all, getting a few surprises is always fun), it can help inform your purchases and hopefully accomplish the above objective nonetheless.
The holidays are also a time to think about those who are less fortunate, as many Americans would agree, and it is always good to teach your children concepts of charity and compassion in the process. One way to do this is to require that your kids select one present of their choosing and donate that present to charity. While your children will likely choose the present they desire least, they will still be taught how to make sacrifices. Furthermore, it will also put their holiday gifts into perspective.
My family will be following these tips this holiday season, and I hope you consider doing the same with you. After all, the holidays are – and certainly should be – about more than just the material items we receive from others.