4 Gifts Children Hate to Love

My birthday is this month. That means another year older (wiser?) and an opportunity to enjoy a couple of birthday traditions. One, we eat lasagna and cheesecake for my birthday. I love lasagna and cheesecake. Although my doctor may not agree, I think it is a great tradition. Two, I give gifts to my family. Nothing big—just something to let them know I love them and keep them in mind. Interestingly, they seem to forget this tradition every year. They always look surprised when I give them a gift. I like that. In a sense, I give myself the gift of watching my children’s face light up when I give them a “birthday surprise.” Although I enjoy giving gifts on my birthday, I think we give gifts to our children gifts all year.  Not necessarily tangible gifts, but important gifts all the same. For instance, here are four gifts I believe our children benefit from all year round. These gifts change their lives for the better, help them mature, and improve their relationships.
First, give your children the gift of responsibility. Your children may balk at this gift, but it is a gift. By giving your children chores and responsibilities, they learn that their actions have meaning. They have the privilege of making a meaningful contribution to the home and family. Making a meaningful contribution enhances their sense of personal value. Yes, the gift of responsibility will keep on giving, contributing to a life-long positive self-concept and strong work ethic.
Second, give your children the gift of accountability. Although this gift is a tremendous gift, it does come with a cost to you and your child. That cost involves discomfort. To hold children accountable for their actions, we must allow them to experience the discomfort of negative consequences for inappropriate behavior. Watching children squirm in the consequences of their negative behavior usually means feeling discomfort as a parent. Most parents really do hate to see their children suffer. But, truly giving the gift of accountability will mean allowing your children to suffer discomfort at times. The true gift of accountability results in learning the difference between right and wrong, wisdom and foolishness. Accountability teaches our children to make wise choices, engage in mature behavior, and use wholesome, uplifting speech.
Third, give your children the gift of opportunity. I don’t mean just any opportunity. I am talking about the opportunity to sacrifice for others and to serve others. We often get wrapped up in giving our children every opportunity to learn, participate in community activities, and experience stimulating environments. These are good opportunities, but our children need more. They need significant opportunities, like the opportunity to serve and to sacrifice. Sacrificing for others can be as simple as giving up the last cookie or as significant as giving up time to help at a food kitchen. Service can be as simple as clearing the table after supper or as significant as a mission trip to a foreign country. Either way, the opportunity to sacrifice and serve begins at home. Build a home environment that supports and encourages sacrifice and service in your family and let it extend from your family to the community at large. After all, the opportunity to sacrifice and serve builds character, humility, and compassion. What a wonderful gift to impart to our children!
Fourth, give your children the gift of anonymity. I know, this sounds strange. We need to acknowledge our children. We need to make sure they feel recognized and accepted for who they are…value and cherish by their parents. However, they do not require praise for every little thing they do. In fact, too much praise can actually make children doubt the sincerity of the praise and, as a result, doubt their own ability. Sometimes, the gift of anonymity is just the thing they need to learn the value of their effort. The gift of anonymity teaches children to complete chores, engage in kind deeds, and work their hardest for the internal satisfaction of knowing they did well. So, praise children for their effort, encourage their work and progress. But, don’t overdo it. Allow them to succeed under the cover of some anonymity as well. Balance your praise with the gift of anonymity.
Quite the gifts, right? Parents can give these gifts to their children all year round. Our children may hesitate in unwrapping them, but they will eventually rejoice in the benefit these gifts offer—the benefit of becoming mature adults who know how to make responsible, wise choices and find joy in serving others.

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