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31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Teaching Our Children To Be Gracious Receivers (Day 4)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest Post by Angi from SchneiderPeeps

With Christmas just around the corner I have been thinking about not only giving but receiving. Many moms have said that they want their children to realize that this holiday season is about giving not getting. And I totally agree with that.

But I’ve been thinking that part of giving is receiving, not in the sense that if I give you something then you have to give me something, because giving is not necessarily reciprocal. Rather, I’ve been thinking about the fact that if everyone is giving — which most people are this time of year — then someone is receiving. Most likely those “someones” are our children.

My children are wonderful givers, I have seen my son (10 at the time) give his only coat to another boy who was “needier” than my son was and my children are always wanting to make something to give to someone. They truly get joy out of giving.

However, we also want our children to be wonderful receivers. Not just to say “thank you” and write a thank you note (although those things are important), but we want them to feel great joy when receiving a gift, just like they do when they give. We don’t want them to feel guilty or unworthy when they receive a gift (or a compliment), to feel like they need to reciprocate, or to feel that any “strings” are attached.

What We Want Our Children to Understand About Receiving a Gift:

  • We want them to see that it is God who provides for us and if someone gives us a gift, we should be thankful to God, first and foremost.
  • We want them to treasure the gift and more importantly the giver.
  • We want them to see the giver’s heart and not just look at the gift.
  • We want them to realize that no one “has” to give them a gift but that they want to give the gift.
  • We want our children to feel special when they receive a gift.

No Hard and Fast Rules For Our Gift-Giving

We don’t have any hard and fast rules about the gifts that we give to our children. We just kind of take each year as it comes. Some years we’ve done family gifts, some years we’ve done individual gifts.

We also don’t have any rules about what others give our children (other than common sense appropriate stuff but most people who give gifts to our children know what we value and are respectful of that). Part of this is that we don’t want our children to have an entitlement mindset when it comes to gifts. We also don’t want them to be disappointed that they didn’t get a certain item. If there’s no expectations then there’s no (or at least not much) disappointment.

I asked my boys and they said that they are happy with the way we handle our gift-giving toward them. They like being surprised. They like that we get to have a holiday where there’s no gift giving stress in our home. They have also seen that the things that were so very important for their friends to have wind up in garage sales a year or so down the road.

What We Teach From New Year’s to Thanksgiving is What Matters Most

I think this realization is so important to make the leap from the gift being about the item to the gift being about the person giving it. This idea of being a gracious receiver may be one of the best gifts you can give your children.

It will also help them be content with the things that they already have and the things they are given. It can help them to not look and compare what God has given others to what God has given them. It can also help them learn to be happy, not envious, of their friends when their friends receive more than them.

So while I know that this time of year can breed ungratefulness and greed, I am going to make a conscious effort to help my children learn to be gracious receivers, by enjoying what God has provided for them through others.

I also think that it is not necessarily all that important what we try to teach our children about giving and receiving from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. It’s what we teach them from New Year’s to Thanksgiving that will make the greatest impact.

Angi is a pastor’s wife and mom of 6 children who spends her days homeschooling, crafting, gardening, playing chauffeur, keeping chickens, trying to learn how take better pictures and blogging at SchneiderPeeps.

Photo credit: Big Stock Photo

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  • Brandy says:

    I like this post a lot. My children are the only grandchildren on both sides, so they get very spoiled on holidays. I have pretty much faced that there is no point to trying to reign in the giving so it is best to embrace it and try to help our children learn to appreciate just how blessed they are to have so many people in their lives who love them.

    • Our children were the only grandkids on both sides for 14 years. I can say that the more you embrace and openly appreciate the generousity of your family will go a long way in helping them not really be spoiled. We also limited our gift giving to our children and focused more on their birthdays for gifts than on Christams.

      • Brandy says:

        Thanks for the advice! I have been really struggling with my 4- year old this year because it is apparent that he thinks he is getting everything on his list. I really want to give him a sense of how truly blessed he is and that he needs to realize that not every kiddo gets over the top Christmases like he does. Any pointers?

        • Part of that is the age. Not only do I have adult and teenage children I also have a 3 year old. She’s not shy at all about telling people what she wants for Christmas and her birthday. We just say things like, “We’ll see. You never know.” She’ll eventually get it. I’m confident that she’ll be excited about whatever she gets.

          I bet your son will begin to realize how blessed he is as he matures. One thing we do is open one gift at a time. I’ve taught my children that when they open a gift to take a moment, look at the gift, say thank you to the giver and one nice thing about it. Enjoy it. Don’t be in such a hurry to move on to the next gift.

          • Brandy says:

            Thanks! We always try to get him to say thank you after each present, but it is hard to control at times. 🙂 I know he appreciates things he receives because he will often ask us “Who got me this train?” When we tell him he says “Wasn’t that so nice of her?” I hope that means he is understanding!

  • Our children are still young, so we are still in the process of teaching them how to be gracious receivers. Let me tell you, it does not come naturally! But teaching gratefulness all year round is so important – they will already know how to be grateful for what they receive at Christmas if we’ve been teaching them all year.

  • Bethany says:

    You hit the nail on the head with your last two sentences!! 🙂

  • Tracy says:

    My son is the only great grandchild/grandchild for both sides. So he gets a lot of gifts at first it was hard for me to accept this. Then I finally realized that it was ok. My family wants to give my son gifts but they are on fixed incomes just like me, so I always give them ideas that are in their price range and save the big ticket items for me/Santa to give. This works for everyone and helps to reduce a lot of stress for everyone.

  • Elysha says:

    My middle son said to me, “Mom, remember last year when you put the presents out really early and we had to wait weeks before we opened them? Yea, don’t do that again. That was torture.” Evidently, my children do not have patience, but they remembered every single gift they received last year.

  • amyy says:

    Beautiful post! Thank you!

  • samarahuel says:

    Can you give a little more detail about what you deem “appropriate stuff” for others to give your kids? I think I need to adjust my own heart a little. I don’t care for the very plasticky, electronic toys; I want them to be able to use their imaginations (think blocks, instruments, play food/kitchen) and if there is going to be a mess of toys out, it really helps me to at least think, “What a cute truck/stuffed animal/etc.” I do make a list of things I would like them to get (at this point they are 1 and 3, so they don’t have their own “wishlists” yet). We are on such a tight budget that we’re not able to get our kids any toys ourselves. But when we end up getting something not asked for, especially something I would never buy for them myself, I can’t help but feel disappointed. Not only because it’s not “what I wanted,” but because in a small apartment, I have to find a place to put something that I don’t even want to own at all. I have actually put gifts in storage and considered exchanging them on occasion. Am I the only one who has this feeling? Anyone else have any suggestions for having a good receiving attitude as a mom?

    • Bethany says:

      I’ve often had a similar experience. We have certain grandparents who love to shop the “deals” at a particular Bargain Outlet and many our the gifts they give our kids come from there (and they give lots of gifts and books). With 4 kids, we don’t have room for so many things, often the items are of poor quality, and even the books are often not something I would want to read to my kids or have them read. It can be tempting to be frustrating and disappointing. I think that the points above about treasuring the giver more than the gift, and looking at the givers heart, not just the gift are very helpful reminders. When we set that mentality for ourselves first, our children will be more likely to pick it up. Beyond that, once a gift it given, it is ours to do as we please (for the most part). So return it, regift it, or look at it as the Lord’s way of providing your family an opportunity to give (Toys for Tots, Booksale, etc). I’ve done all the above. I’ve done all that many times, often right after Christmas.

      • samarahuel says:

        That is good advice. I especially like the idea of looking for an opportunity to give. In the past when I have done this, it has been a great reminder that no matter how little I feel we have, there is ALWAYS someone who has less. A favorite donation place for me is our local Birthright (alternative to Planned Parenthood) office, where they have a little store for needy moms full of donated clothes, toys, and baby supplies. There is also an annual “book exchange” in our community. Last year it thrilled me to see a family happily clutching one of the books I had brought.

    • We’ve always lived in small homes and so space has always been an issue. So I understand where you’re coming from. If you’re asked what your children want I think that’s a great opportunity to freely share some of the things that you want or better yet, share some of the types of toys you want. For instance you could share that you would like classic toys like blocks, legos, babie dolls, wooden train track, potato heads, etc. instead of electronic toys. That you really want to help your children develop their imagination and these things will last a long, long time.

      I’ve felt that disappointment too of getting something that I think “Why in the world would someone give us this?” but then I have to stop myself and make myself think about how this gift was given for our enjoyment and so we should enjoy it. Some gifts stay around here longer than others. When my children were smaller we rotated through toys much more often than we did as they got bigger. I think most people understand that esp. young children grow out of toys pretty quickly.

      Probably most people would find it perfectly acceptable for you to exchange a gift, in fact most stores give a gift reciept just for that reason. I also think that people will understand that your children have a lot of stuff and your home is only so big so you can’t keep everything. Your children are pretty young and it takes a while for families to get into a good rhythm of gift giving but eventually those closest to you will begin to see that you don’t like a lot of clutter or electronic toys. In the mean time, it’s a great opportunity for you to really practice gracious receiving.

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