Teaching the Joy of Giving

The joy of receiving comes pretty naturally to all of us doesn’t it!  In light of that, we’ve focused our attention on teaching J the joy of giving.  In fact J really hadn’t figured out that he would receive gifts on Christmas too… until this weekend 🙂  We made shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, homemade cookies for teachers and neighbors, he wanted to bring stickers to his friends to the Christmas celebration at Bible Study last week, …  I’ve been so proud that he is starting to think of ways to give on his own too! 

Honestly,  I’m learning how to teach this as I go.  But I’m finding it really it isn’t as difficult as I had anticipated.   We focus on the smiles on faces or the laughs we hear when we give, the way it makes someone else feel.  We try to vocalize how we feel when we’re given something to add more opportunities for J to make the connection behind the purpose of giving.   J is starting to notice.  He came home from Bible study so excited because the other kids in his class were “so happy!” when he gave them stickers. 

So this year I decided J was old enough to go shopping himself.  I started with dad first, asking J what gift he wanted to give daddy for Christmas.  His first response was cars and trains.  Of course! Those are J’s personal favorites so why wouldn’t dad enjoy those too?

So we had a lesson on how to give gifts. Think about what the person enjoys doing.  What do we see daddy excited about?  This wasn’t easy for my 2 year old to grasp.  But he eventually got it!  I was so proud when he finally started listing things that Daddy liked and decided on the perfect gift.  An orange!  He was so thrilled with the idea.  And it’s true, my husband loves oranges.  So we took off to the store to buy an orange.  

J wrapped up the orange and he placed it under the tree.  J has been THRILLED with his choice and COULDN’T WAIT to give it to daddy.  In fact when dad came home from work the night of our shopping trip, J ran up to him with a “Happy Birthday!!”  I got you orange!!!”  Obviously he’s still a bit confused.  It’s a work in progress.   He wanted dad to open the gift right away, but slowly caught on when I convinced him to keep it a secret until Christmas.  Each day since, he has retrieved the gift for dad from under the tree and carried it around, telling me all about what’s inside.  He gives it a place of honor, separate from the other gifts.  It’s so cute to watch. 

I love that his focus is not on the gifts for him that wait under the tree, but what he gets to give. 

Today was actually our family’s day to exchange gifts.  Schedules just made this most feasible instead of waiting Christmas morning (which is fine by me actually since now we can focus even more on Jesus’ birthday).  J ran straight to get dad’s gift.  His excitement was still there and was thrilled to see dad open (and eat) his present.  Can you tell? 

Tonight during our bedtime prayer, long after all gifts were opened, J of course was thankful for the gifts he received.  But, I love that he wasn’t focused on just that.  He also remembered in prayer, getting to give dad a gift too and how happy dad was to get  his orange.  I think teaching the joy of giving is a process that takes time and lots of practice.  I definitely think it’s worth the effort to start working even when our kids are young.  

There’s still plenty of time!  Ask your little one what they would like to give their mom, dad, or grandparents for Christmas.  I would suggest having this conversation before hitting the store.  Encourage them to think from another’s perspective.  It doesn’t have to cost much, the price of an orange can go a long way in teaching a very important lesson.

Now on to see what J wants to give the rest of the family!

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