From our panel of staff contributors
The kids need a big dose of giving to others; perhaps no new gifts of toys/clothes/electronics until they donate some used ones to needy people. Sign them up to participate in a service project or two. Rent some message-heavy movies and watch/discuss them together. Find a relative who believes in respect, politeness and discipline and have the kids spend the weekend with him or her.
Part of me says inevitable: We're all bombarded with commercials that equate spending with worth, and that's awfully hard to escape. Rather than try to negate the un-negatable, we made them participate. When they were really young, my wife would ask them to round up some good- to very-good-condition toys that could be donated to charity to "make room" for the stuff to come. When older, we'd pick a needy child (anonymous) about their age from one of several charity groups and have our kids shop alongside us for toys and mittens and such. Older still, we'd establish a budget and solicit input.
Inevitable? Not really.
Understandable? Absolutely, says
"Kids want stuff," she says. "Everybody wants stuff. I look through the (
From the moment they're born, children are hard-wired to receive. We don't do much to dissuade that reflex with our yearlong buildup to holidays. ("You can ask Santa to bring you that!" "Let's save that for your
"We have to be wary of getting angry at kids for doing just exactly what kids do," Brown Braun says.
As parents, our job (one of them, anyway) is to teach kids the beauty of giving as well.
"It's up to us, (when they're) at an early age, to redefine the holidays so they're not all about 'What am I going to get?'" says Brown Braun. "We have to work overtime to put the emphasis on interactive family experiences and rituals — creating memories and cultivating the pleasure that you get out of giving to somebody else."
Think of the joy on your child's face when he presents you with glitter and dried pasta glued to construction paper for
"One night in December get everyone in the kitchen to make cranberry bread," suggests Brown Braun. "Make the wrapping paper together. Have the kids make their own lists of whom to give it to. Maybe it's the firemen, maybe it's a parking lot attendant.
"Pick one night of Hanukkah where the whole family eats dinner under the table. Put on your jammies and run around the city looking at Christmas decorations. Do things that are not only defined by presents.
"I'm not saying it will take the place of getting," she says. "But it teaches them that fun and joy come out of more than just receiving."