As I sat wrapping presents today I thought to myself, “Have we lost the heart behind gift-giving?” More importantly, as a mom, I reflect upon how maybe I am selling my kids short in how I have managed Christmas gift-giving over the years.
Have we Lost the Heart Behind Gift Giving?
Of course, as I write this I recognize so many people give gifts in different ways. For some, gift-giving is their love language, and they have a true knack for the art of giving. For others, like me, giving gifts is lower on the love language spectrum.
While wrapping today, I thought about how our family exchanges gifts. We draw names. I know many families do the same.
The pattern for me and the kids’ gift exchange goes something like this:
- One adult draws the names and lets everyone know who they are buying for this Christmas.
- Then, I ask the other moms in the group for a list of ideas for their kids. I normally receive a link from Amazon and/or Target.
- Next, I do all of the shopping for an exact item on the list.
- After that, I do all of the wrappings, putting my child’s name in the “from” section on the tag of the gift they have given.
- At our Christmas celebration, my child is just as surprised about what they have given as the receiver of the gift.
This pattern shows me where I have fallen short as a mom. My kids haven’t learned the heart behind giving.
I know I am not alone either. I have heard from so many other moms that this is the pattern in their Christmas regimen also.
All of that begs the question, “Have we lost the heart behind gift-giving?”
If that answer for you, like it is for me, is, “Yes,” then let’s reflect on getting back to teaching a different way to give and receive gifts.
Gift Giving – A Better Way (for Me)
Part of reflecting on the question, “Have we lost the heart behind gift-giving?” came via text messages as I was wrapping gifts. The extended family had been wavering on whether to do away with the gift exchange altogether.
While part of that was appealing, we decided to stick with tradition. The anticipation, engagement, and blessings of generosity trumped the thoughts of forgoing the traditions of adults doing a white elephant and kids drawing names.
Suddenly, there were more gifts to buy this season.
I became daunted by thinking of people asking for my lists and trying to have my kids add to their own lists so I can share even more ideas.
What I decided at that moment is, I am not going to ask for a list.
I definitely recognize that it is nice to receive something that you really want. However, if we only rely on a list, are we neglecting the art of thoughtful giving? Have we also failed to teach our kids how to gracefully handle all gifts received – whether it be their most favorite item ever or something they didn’t quite anticipate?
Rather than getting a list from other moms and doing all the shopping, I decided my kids are going to actually going to help. They will do the brainstorming, the shopping, and the wrapping. I will even have them participate in the purchasing of the gift.
For some of you, this is no revelation. This is how you already do it. However, for others, you have fallen into the trap of anemic gift-giving as I have. Perhaps you have lost the joy of giving because of it.
What I Want to Instill in my Kids About Giving
- It is more blessed to give than receive.
- Giving a gift should come from the heart. We should be thoughtful about the likes and personalities of those we are gifting to.
- We should have skin in the game when learning to give. Giving should be done sacrificially.
- Gratefulness should be expressed because of the heart of the person giving, not necessarily what was received.
- There is joy in the process…the brainstorming, the shopping, and the gift-giving moment.
- Giving can be done on impulse. While Christmas is a more structured time to give gifts, I want my kids to be looking for opportunities to bless people generously throughout the year. Christmas shopping can be done throughout the year, too, as we see something we believe someone else would like.
- Gifts do not need to just be tangible items. We can give of our time or talents. I really believe gifts of time are some of the best gifts.
- The heart behind the gift is what really matters.
How to Teach a Better Way of Giving
- Have kids do the hopping with you.
- Forgo lists and brainstorm with your kids.
- Model generous giving.
- Teach kids to brainstorm about the talents, interests, and personalities of the person to whom they are giving.
- Compliment moments of generosity or thoughtfulness.
- Help kids in the brainstorming process.
- Have them pay for the gift, giving them opportunities to earn money if needed.
- Be patient as they develop a heart for giving.
- Share stories of generosity.
- Participate in my Character Building Series. Although there are 52 words available, do the lessons on generosity with your children.
While I labeled the last section “a better way of giving,” I recognize there are lots of ways to give. You do you when it comes to giving, but I hope it is a place of being a joyful giver.
I know that the Christmas season can be stressful, and I don’t want to add to the stress.
Yes, giving straight from a list is perfectly wonderful. You know you are getting something they will enjoy. That is a win. However, I think there is room for doing both.
This post is simply my personal reflection on how I could do better at encouraging my kids to be part of the process, giving them ownership over the giving experience. I believe they will find more joy in the gift-giving experience this way. After talking to other moms who have been thinking this way, I thought you might be able to relate also.
Want More Thoughtful Gift-Giving Ideas?
How to Make a Favorite Things Basket
Yes! This. It started brewing in my heart 2 Christmas’ ago. I’ve made a few changes, and this year it was specifically not asking for lists from two and including a note about some socks my son picked out for a friend.
The truth is the socks stink, but my sons heart was so pure-he wanted to have matching socks (they’re 5) to his friend. Neither boy has very many friends and so the note was really more from me for the mom-sorry these are too big, but they came from my sons heart as he desperately wants to match your son.
And it’s so nice to think that someone purchased something specifically for me. Like how my daughter thinks of her grandmother every time she sees some cool hand washing dishes gadget. Every time.
Thanks for your insight. You’re not wrong.