Manners: Teaching Children to Give Graciously

my worldraising giving children

Giving is fun, so make it that way. As a list lover, I know firsthand how easy it is to drive off into the sunset—just me and my list—leaving my family behind. However, when it comes to giving gifts, it's important to include our family and find out what they would like to give grandparents, friends or even each other. Even selecting a small sibling gift allows them to relish gift-giving and strengthens their relationship too. When it comes to teaching manners, teaching our children how to give graciously is a gift in itself!

Involving the Family

When teaching children to give graciously, it's important to involve the entire family. If the whole family is learning how to give, a support system can develop and everyone will feel part of the process. Plus, it will make giving even more fun as family members pitch in and help.

The following are a few ways to involve the entire family in the gift-giving process:

  1. At the dinner table, chat with your family about upcoming gifts or friends that might deserve a random act of kindness. Approach the process with the desire to help and teach and engage. Teaching children to really think about "who" we are giving to more than "what" we are giving is so important. When we focus on the "who" the "what" is so much easier to figure out!
  2. Take your children on an outing or two. Before entering the store, remind them that this trip is about those we love and our attention shouldn’t be on what we want but on what will make others feel loved and appreciated. (Yes, this means that even if you are tempted by a beautiful hand-knit scarf that complements your favorite sweater perfectly, you go back later or not at all.) Self-control is a good habit for all of us to learn. Once you select a gift, let your child carry it to the register. When you get home, let your children help you wrap the gift or tie the ribbon. This helps them feel part of the process.

Giving the Gift of Gratitude

Although the holidays or special occasions present excellent opportunities for children to engage in the gift-giving process, we must take time to sit down with our children before the holiday or birthday to teach them how to be gracious—before they approach their pile of gifts like a vulture ravaging its lunch. Take it from me: it’s an unattractive sight!

The following are tips on how to engage children in the gift-giving process:

  1. Talk with your children often about ways they can acknowledge gifts.
  2. Stage a dress rehearsal. Have them find their favorite toy and wrap it up, then have them practice giving you a gift. Show them how to graciously open it, then have them follow your example. Gifts they love and gifts they don't.  After all it's easy to be excited, it's not as easy to mask disappointment.
  3. Don’t postpone writing a thank-you: the evening or the day after the gift is received is the best time. Although these times tend to be the busiest and our children are tired, it is very important to set the standard from the top. We make time for what is important and our children know this. Thank-yous, although daunting, are very important. Make it fun. Pour a cup of tea or juice, sit down together, and put the finishing touches on the goodness of giving and the importance of a gracious spirit.

How do you teach your children to be more giving? How do you involve them in the gift-giving process?

Founder of Mindy Lockard’s Gracious Living which includes a daily blog. TheGraciousGirl.net, and trainings for colleges/universities, government agencies, and private companies. Mindy is a freelance contributor for FOX 12 Oregon, Crane & Co’s The Crane Insider, Stationery Trends magazine’s column “What’s Write” and many other web and print publications. Contact Mindy: www.MindyLockard.com twitter: TheGraciousGirl facebook: TheGraciousGirl.

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