In response to my last post (Have You Been Good This Year?), I’ve received a few messages from parents, some saying they wish they’d read it years ago.
One of the mums said the post changed her mind – and so her boys are now getting gifts this year. This is what she wrote:
“Hi Meggan, I read your blog. And it changed my mind about getting gifts for the boys this Christmas. We weren’t going to as they had been not behaving at all for quite a few years now. Every year that’s what we told each other that they don’t deserve to be treated that way. I totally agree about the Santa thing too although I wish I’d read your advice several years ago! Too late in our house – Santa does come and deliver gifts????. But the kids are outgrowing that thought bcoz they hear here and there about the Santa theory. Anyhow what to give? Do you give them the extravagant gifts that they are asking or a token of the season? How to teach kids about giving and service and helping others and understanding that there are people, especially kids who would be happy to get 2 square meals a day?
Here’s my response to Swathy. If you have anything to add, please do! Just share your thoughts in the comments box at the very bottom of the page.
Question from mum: “Do you give your kids the extravagant gifts that they’re asking for or a token of the season?
Megganmamma: That’s up to you, but I’d be thinking ahead with this. What you do one year might well be setting you up for the next. If you give your kid everything on their wish list this year they’ll probably expect the same next year. Your role as a parent isn’t to give your kid absolutely everything they want. You can’t avoid disappointment in life, but how you deal with it and respond to it counts for a whole lot.
Also, the size and quantity of their presents doesn’t have to be directly proportionate to how much money you have or don’t have – choose what you want to focus on and on what values you want to cultivate in them.
I read a great post recently, Guaranteed Favourite Toy, which speaks about all the things you can give to your kids at Christmas that can’t be bought. I love it – the thought of wrapping up a certificate for your kid which entitles them to something fun, something that includes spending quality time with you. They might get to choose what you all do on Saturday afternoon, or where you all go for a family dinner. If your kids have been behaving ‘badly’ then they could probably benefit from the focus being less on presents and more on presence, ie. having some present time with you. If you don’t know what present time is, read this great article, Present Time Is Magic Time!
Question from mum: How do you teach kids about helping and giving unconditionally others?”
Megganmamma: Kids imitate. If you have fun giving to other people and caring for other people (not just within your immediate family unit) your kids will learn that, whether it shows now or not. You can either see your family as your family or the whole world as your family and whichever you choose will profoundly affect the way you are in the world and how your children get to experience being in the world.
Doing random acts of kindness for others, either with or in front of your kids, is a great place to cultivate in your kids fun around giving. Here are few ideas:
- Bake a cake and leave it on your neighbours doorstep.
- Pay someone’s bill in a cafe.
- Pop a gift voucher under someone’s door.
- Help carry someone’s groceries if they’re struggling.
- Send a handmade card to someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of love in their life.
- Send flowers to someone for no particular reason.
I heard of this mum who used to keep an ear open for families in her community who were struggling financially. A couple of days before Christmas she’d spontaneously call her daughter and together they’d drive to that home where they’d quietly and anonymously leave a bunch of presents and Christmas dinner on the doorstep. Years later the daughter wrote about how it had profoundly impacted her. She remembers the enormous amount of fun her mum had had doing it and how contagious that was.
When you really know how giving is one of the most awesome things in the world and you do it from that place of joy inside, no one around you can mistake the joy of that. And if you don’t feel inclined to be giving – just fake it till you make it!
Your actions speak louder than words. You have to be the role model. And if you feel that you just don’t have the time or energy then you’d definitely benefit from activities which increase your energy and your connection to yourself – like meditation and yogic breathing practices. I recommend the sudarshan kriya as taught on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Happiness Program or his Sahaj samadhi Meditation.
Question from mum: How do you help your kids understand that there are people out there, including kids, who’d be happy to get 2 square meals a day,” (let alone a whole bunch of pressies at Xmas?)
Megganmamma: I think you can talk about stuff like that with your kids, but what might be more effective is actually having them be part of something concrete which connects them to people who don’t have much. One of the things I do with my son is loan money to families on KIVA‘s website. The families are in developing countries and need help starting up their businesses. My son and I look at their photos. I read him what they need the money for. And then we choose who to loan our $50 to. This really is one of those gifts that keep on giving because as soon as the loan’s repaid you get to loan it out again to another person or family.
There are also organisations who feed the homeless. Contact them. Ask if you and your kids can come and serve food with them to the homeless sometime.
There’s also a lot to be said for practicing gratitude. No matter how tough things are there are things you can be grateful for. Share with your kids about the things you’re grateful for. And don’t worry about getting them to do it back – sometimes just sharing what lights you up is good enough. What you focus on grows – focussing on your worries reduces your energy and often grows your worries – focussing on what you’re grateful for opens the doors for grace and love to flow into your life.
I believe all the answers are within us. We just need a gentle reminding sometimes. I hope this post will serve as a gentle reminder for those of you who want or need it.