I am posting this for my colleague Sharon.  This is the first in a series of 3 postings on gifting and children.

Today as I was driving back from Thanksgiving with family I started to think about why some people seem to be very generous with their time, talent and resources while others are not.  Thanksgiving is a time for reflection. We spend a full day dedicated to thankfulness and then it starts.  The television, radio and newspapers scream “SHOP.” Even our email boxes are filled with advertisements and promises of good deals.  All we have to do is hop in the car or get online to find just the right gift to make those we love happy.

Yet, as a parent with grown children and now a grandparent,  I wonder if all that STUFF really makes them happy.  In ten, twenty, or thirty years will they remember the latest gadget or toy that I bought.  I would hope that it is the time we spent together building family traditions and memories that will make them smile and remember.

So as we plan for the upcoming holidays here are a few thoughts I would like to share.  All of us have seen the three old playing with the box creating a fort, castle, spaceship or boat.  We know that after the gleam of newness wears off, it is the time we spent together that will provide the lasting memory.

So how about using our time together to teach children about generosity and today is a good day to start. It is Giving Tuesday.

We have lived through Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday all days dedicated to the “Gods of Consumption” – let us take the rest of the holiday season to focus on spending time on family – a very low packaging gift.  How about trying out our tip for gifting?

We are not necessarily born with a generous spirit, though some children do seem to have an innate sense of generosity.  Generosity, like most traits, is learned through observation, imitation, and internalization.   Children are all eyes and ears.  Children watch their parents and other adults very closely observing all that we do as we go through our daily activities.  They imitate what they see – a mother rocks and sings to a baby and the older sibling will pick up their doll and copies their mother.  Over time behaviors are internalized and if we are asked why we do what we do very often the response is, “that is the way it is supposed to be done, it is how my mom and dad did it.”

So during the season of giving try to teach through example and your children will observe, imitate and internalize your generous spirit and the best of you will becomes a part of them.

We are all concerned about creating Franken-Consumers, the child we are all afraid of.  You know that child in the toy aisle who throws herself down on the floor screaming, “No, I want it NOW!”

Growing up I would dream myself through the fall with the Wish Book from Sears, Montgomery Ward or J.C. Penny’s.  Those books were magical.  Today children are bombarded by advertising created just for them.  Advertising is everywhere!  You cannot escape it, but we can use it as a teaching tool teaching.  Let’s teach our children to be wise consumers.

Have conversations with your children about all the things they think they want.  Consider Layered Gifting for family and friends.  Layered Gifting is when you give a small gift layered over a donation to a charity that has a relationship to the smaller personal gift.  An example of  Layered Gifting would be donating to a charity in the name of the child and then giving the child a small gift that mirrors the donation.  Such as a donation to your local animal shelter in the name of your cat-loving niece and then giving her a book that tells a story about a cat. Another example is giving a donation to Habitat for Humanity for your son who loves to build things and then giving him a starter tool kit or a set of blocks, depending on his age.  Make sure you enclose a card that explains the donation and talk about what the charity does.

One of my favorite memories is giving my nephew a cuddly stuffed toy duck and the bookThe Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese. That was the same year I made a donation in his name to Heifer International.  Through Heifer International I could donate money to help purchase ducks for a family. We talked about how the ducks would help the family and how the family would then share the ducks with other people.  Eight years later and my nephew is still talking about his ducks!

Getting Your Gifting Ducks in a Row

Picking a charity that has meaning for the child is important.  This takes time and thought, which is what gifting is all about.   Ask yourself a few questions:

1) What are the interests or passions of the person receiving the gift?

2) Is the child interested in travel, animals, building, cooking, gardening, fire trucks, dancing or singing? Do they want to be an actor, teacher, artist, doctor, or farmer?

There are charities for every passion or interest.  Do your research and check out:   https://www.charitynavigator.org/?gclid=CNDa4N_l77MCFQyDnQodfBkAPg

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