Giving with Gratitude: Teaching Your Kids to Give

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock Photos

When working with families, parents regularly ask me how they can teach their children to willfully get rid of stuff. This is typically followed by guilty admissions of purging toys on the sly. Out of sight, out of mind – right? Don’t worry, no judgment– we’ve ALL been there!

If anyone tells you there is a quick fix to get your kid on the giving train, they are lying. Like everything else in our lives, it’s a process, but most definitely doable.

Need some help? Keep reading.

Don’t practice deceit. Giving without consent tends to be hurtful and unproductive. This applies not only to our kids but all our loved ones. They will figure you out and in the end, you aren’t doing them any favors. To address resistance, offer them some control in deciding what stays and what goes.

Mutually decide on ground rules prior to decluttering to help ease the process (i.e. if it hasn’t been played with in over six months, thank it and send it on its way; if it has sentimental value, keep it with confidence, etc.).

Set concrete goals ahead of time to ensure expectations are understood and to hold your child accountable. (i.e. all toys must fit neatly in their appropriate storage containers; 30 minutes set aside daily to declutter, etc.)

Break the job into smaller tasks, focusing on one space or category at a time so they don’t get overwhelmed. Consider using timers for an added motivator and visual to keep them on track.

Do practice gratitude. The number one way to do this is to lead by example. We live in a throw-away culture, where items can be easily replaced with as little as a few clicks. If we treat our items with little regard, our children will do the same. If we find it hard to rid ourselves of excess, our kids will too. I remember once complaining to my son about his (what I thought to be) out of control toy situation. He recanted with, “What about all your clothes? You don’t wear all those!” He had me. I owned it and agreed to thinning out my closet if he did his toys as well.

Don’t forget to express yourself. Verbalize how thankful you are through self-talk when you receive gifts or even the necessities that we often take for granted. When purging, I make sure to highlight how the item could be better put to use by someone else and emphasize how much another person will appreciate it.

My message is clear: If we aren’t showing our possessions the love they deserve, we are essentially depriving others of potential joy. Remember, your kids are listening and they will follow suit. It has taken a lot of time and patience, but my son now freely offers up toys to other children. It warms my heart when I hear him say, “Another kid would probably like playing with this.” I know I’m doing something right!

Lastly, spread some good tidings. I don’t know about you, but I want my child to know that the world is much bigger than us – that people out there are suffering, and we can do something about it. The last couple of years we focused our giving efforts on donating personal care items and clothing to benefit at-risk LGBTQ youth through the Grand Rapids Pride Center’s Safe & Supported At Risk Youth Initiative.

Choose a cause that speaks to your kids and let them help with the shopping. This can make giving fun!

*Photo courtesy of Thinkstock Photos

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