How do we teach our children that it is better to give than to receive? Some kids already seem to know. In a video produced by UPtv with Metro Atlanta Boys & Girls Clubs—83 percent of whom come from low-income families—interviewers asked kids what they wanted for Christmas and what their parents wanted for Christmas. They presented the kids with both and told them that they had to choose. Between getting their Barbie Dreamhouse or a necklace for Mom, between getting a laptop or a coffeemaker for Mom, the kids all chose the presents for their families.
As one boy, who looks to be about eight years old told the interviewer, “Your family matters, not Legos.” While it’s a little uncomfortable to watch an interviewer putting kids on the spot like this—it’s worse than the marshmallow test because you might end up with no marshmallows—a lot of viewers may be wondering what their own kids would do in this situation.
Frankly, as much as adults have turned Christmas (and Chanukah) into occasions where kids go to stores and look through catalogs to write lists of things that they want, most kids still do get pleasure from buying or making presents for their families. Whether it’s the picture frame that they create at preschool or something they go to a store to purchase, kids seem to get a kick out of thinking of what their parents or even siblings might want. They enjoy keeping the secret (or trying to) until the big moment of unwrapping. They enjoy watching the faces of family members as they smile widely and thank profusely.
The greater challenge, as with all charity, is to get kids to want to give to people whom they don’t know or people who won’t know where the gifts came from. But one step at a time.
When the interviewer asks why the kids made the choice to get a present for their family instead of themselves, many of them cite the sacrifices that their parents have made for them and the fact that they deserve recognition. How many of our kids understand the sacrifices we make for them? The truth is that most parents—especially those who are more well off than the ones at the Boys and Girls Club—don’t want their children to know. Who wants to be the parent saying, “After all I’ve done for you. . .”
But like the kids in this video, if our children see us working hard to make sure that they have the things they truly need and the things that we want for them, perhaps they will get the message. A little sacrifice from everyone can bring a lot of joy.