I have repeatedly told my kids that Christmas is not about getting gifts, but until we stop giving them ANY gifts, they’re not really going to believe that, are they?
In fact, it seems that I can’t go anywhere in December without strangers asking my children, “What do you want for Christmas?”
Is there any way to combat the coveting and ingratitude that always crops up at Christmas?
Is it just me, or is it practically impossible for kids NOT to obsess over gifts at Christmastime?
Feelings of gratefulness are expected to come after the swath of gifts has been unwrapped, after the impossibly large meal, after we have been given more than we ever needed.
Teaching kids to be thankful at Christmas
Can we teach our children to be thankful during the Christmas season, not just afterward?
Let’s assume the answer to that question is yes. But simply telling our children “be grateful” is a bit like trying to grow a tender shoot in hard, clay soil.
Unless our children’s hearts are softened and prepared by God’s compassion and love, gratefulness cannot grow there.
To soften the soil, we must teach and model the discipline of giving.
Showing them what others in our world are lacking and enabling them to help fill that gap cultivates that hard, clay soil. As they begin to glimpse God’s heart for the poor, the soil is turned over and made fresh.
In that prepared soil can grow the seeds of gratitude and praise.
Then, just as a plant falls to the ground and becomes part of the soil, gratitude nourishes a truly generous spirit.
The discipline of giving
The discipline of giving prepares the heart for gratitude,which nourishes true generosity.
So HOW can you help your child be thankful at Christmas…HOW can you start the discipline of giving?
One thing we love to do with our children at bedtime during the Advent season is help them pick out things from our favourite non-profit gift catalogues, like Compassion, Gospel for Asia, World Relief, and Samaritan’s Purse.
They love to pour over the magazines, especially at bedtime because it means they get to stay up a little later, and choose things to give to children in other parts of the world. Children who lack food, shelter, clean water, and Jesus. These are some of our favourite organizations:
Another way to help teach the discipline of giving is through this fantastic story that I first found a few years ago.
The Sparkle Box, written by Jill Hardie, is about a boy whose parents put a Sparkly Box under their Christmas tree. Naturally, he’s not allowed to know what’s in it until Christmas Day. Throughout the story, the boy and his parents serve others in very natural ways.
On Christmas Day, he opens the box and finds it full of pieces of paper. On each piece of paper is written something kind that he did for someone else that season. They explain that the Sparkle Box is actually a gift for Jesus, not for him. And the gift is all the ways that he has served others.
I read The Sparkle Box to our church congregation one year at our Christmas Day service. The book actually comes with a real sparkle box, and over December I had asked parents to tell me what kind deeds their children were doing.
After reading the story to the congregation, I was able to share the contents of our own Sparkle Box with the crowd, and it was so powerful.
The story and painted illustrations are wonderful, but probably a little long for the youngest kids, so I would recommend this book for ages 5-10. (That said, my 3 year old asked for it a few nights in a row!)
You can find this book, “The Sparkle Box” by Jill Hardie on Amazon or at your local library!
If you’re looking for a fun way to bring Christ back into your Christmas, download my 20 simple Christmas bedtime activities! It’s perfect for helping young kids have fun with the Christ part of Christmas without taking a lot of time.