Getting Over the "Gimmes"

6 tips for battling holiday greed

"Hey mom, I saw the coolest paint gun on TV!" our son John, then about 11 years old, excitedly said. "That's what I want for Christmas! All the other guys are asking for it, and their parents are probably getting it for them, too. I just have to have one!"

It was two days before Christmas, and I'd already finished my shopping and overspent my budget. I was exhausted by my five kids' endless lists of "have to haves"!

This season of giving too often becomes the season of "gimme." So how can we raise kids to be "givers" instead of "getters"? Here are six quick tips.

1. Recognize that giving's more than a seasonal issue.

While the attack of the "gimmes" is most blatant at Christmas, it's what we do during the other 11 months of the year that determines the focus of our holidays. As the season approaches, take note of your family conversations. Observe what issues crop up that encourage materialism or self-gratification. Write down what you do right and what changes you'll make for next year. The best time to plan for next Christmas is this year.

Why not try what I call a "3-star" plan? Here's how it works: First, each family member determines that every day they'll compliment or en courage someone at school, in the office, or in the neighborhood. Second, each family member performs an act of service for someone else each week. Maybe it's doing a sibling's chore or running another person's errand. Third, every month your family does something surprising for somebody else, such as baking a cake for a neighbor, or taking flowers to a friend simply to say you care.

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