Chanukah is right around the corner and who doesn’t love Chanukah? Everyone enjoys the candles glowing in the window, playing dreidel, eating latkes and sufganiyot and lots of family parties. But many parents might dread Chanukah because of the pressure to buy their kids gifts. Oftentimes, parents feel their kids have too much and become frustrated because they’re often ungrateful and want more. It makes us wonder if our kids will ever learn to be givers rather than takers.
Here are a few simple ways to make sure your children learn to give:
1. Be a Giver
The best way to teach your children is not by lecturing but by role modeling. That means you need to strive to be the person you would like them to be. (No pressure, kids will forgive your imperfections, if you forgive them theirs). If your kids see you giving of your time and your energy to the people around you, they will probably become givers just be osmosis.
You can let them know in a conversational sort of way of the acts of giving that you do:
“I am going to give a call to Mrs. Wein. Older people who live alone can get very lonely sometimes, especially around the holidays. They can use someone to talk to.”
“The Shwartz’s just had a baby. I know they can use some help. I am going to make them some dinner.”
2. Reinforce Giving Behavior
Another great way to teach your children giving behavior is to praise kids when you see them giving. Don’t point out the times they are acting selfish, instead be on the lookout for any little act of kindness, consideration and giving on their part. Try to ignore the times that they are unkind. When we give attention to a kid’s negative behavior we inadvertently reinforce their negative behavior. When we only focus on their positive behavior we reinforce their positive behavior. It takes a while to retrain our brains to look for the positive but it is well worth the effort.
“You shared your sufganiyah with your brother. That is called being considerate.”
“You let your sister go first even though it was your turn. That is called being kind.”
“You let Eli borrow your football. That is what a giving neighbor does.”
3. Help Your Child Use Their Talents to Give
Children are more likely to give of their time if they are doing what they like to do. (The same thing goes for adults.) So if your child likes to sing, or play a musical instrument, perhaps they can volunteer at a local nursing home. If your child is good with young children, maybe they can offer babysitting help. Children who love animals would benefit from working in an animal shelter.
Once they start using their talents to give they will be more likely to give some more.
Teaching kids to be givers does not have to be difficult, it can be done simply in little ways. We all know that sometimes the best gifts come in small packages.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.