Teach the Joy of Gift Giving
It doesn't take much teaching for children to understand the "getting" part of giving and receiving. But it's never too early to begin setting a good example for your children, to teach them the joy of giving gifts.
"Pre-kindergarten is a very good age to introduce the idea of altruism and giving to others," says Ellen Hollon, M.S., a child development expert in Dallas. "Role modeling is the best way to learn that giving is a positive concept.
"Parents can be good role models, for example, by adopting a family in need and shopping for items to give to that family during the holidays, Hollon says. She recommends including children in the process by allowing them to pick out toys they would like to give to another child.
You have lots of opportunities to help teach the concept of giving during the holidays. For example, children can pass on toys to youngsters who will spend the season at a hospital. Local charities typically establish special programs during the season to make it easy for families to help the less fortunate.
Child psychologists say, however, that parents should not expect young children to fully understand, much less embrace, the concept of selflessness. It's normal for young children to be selfish and enjoy receiving more than giving. Instead of lecturing your child about the joys of giving, you can help create excitement and happiness around present giving.
Make the child part of the gift-buying process by telling him or her that you really need help in buying just the right gift for a friend or family member. Then, when you wrap the gift, speculate how much the present will mean to the person who's getting it. You can even let your child help with the wrapping.