Christmas Shopping Increases Children’s Competence

“Ho, Ho, Ho! ‘Tis the season” for giving gifts…and that means shopping. Shopping is work (for me anyway)! But, shopping also provides an opportunity to raise children with character, children who feel competent. Have you ever thought about what goes in to getting someone a really good gift? First, we have to think like they do: What kind of gift would they like? What gift would bring them joy? To answer these questions, we have to step into the other person’s shoes, see their life through their eyes, and accept their view of the world. In other words, we have to have empathy with the other person…a good character trait to develop. Second, we have to have a desire to be generous or gracious toward the other person. We have to desire to give them a gift with no strings attached and no expectation of repayment…otherwise it just isn’t a gift. Christmas shopping offers a great opportunity to teach our children about generosity and grace, especially the grace of God in giving us His Son to pay the price for our sin. That sets a pretty high bar on generosity, doesn’t it? Third (and on a much less taxing level perhaps), we have to use good math skills. We want to show generosity and grace, but we do not want to go bankrupt. We want to wisely balance our generosity with our actual ability. Math skills become important for wisely showing grace while remaining in our budget. Overall, Christmas shopping offers a great opportunity to raise children competent in perspective taking and empathy, budgeting skills, and generosity. What can you do to help this process? I’m glad you asked….Here are a two specific ways you can use shopping to build competence in your children:
     ·         Get out of the way and let your children decide on the gift they want to give. You can brainstorm with them and discuss ideas, but let them decide. Show them that you trust their ideas and wisdom. While you brainstorm, listen. Listen to learn how your child thinks. Ask them why they are thinking about a particular gift. Have they heard Mommy talk about wanting that? Do they notice Daddy using something similar or wearing something similar? What lead them to think their friend might like this particular gift. Not only do you learn about your children’s thought patterns, you also help them learn perspective taking through this conversation.

·         Let your children contribute to the gift. I realize that many children do not have money to buy gifts, but let them make some kind of contribution. This contribution does not have to be in the form of money. Their contribution may include wrapping the present (this may not be pretty, depending on their age…although my family says my wrapping is still not pretty—unique, but not pretty). Or, let them hand the money to the cashier when purchasing the gift, hide the gift somewhere at home until it’s time to put it under the tree, or put it in their special place under the tree at the right time. As our children get older, they can even contribute financially to the gift. Whatever their contribution, let them do it. Do not step in to fix it or tweak it. If their “wrap job” does not look neat, let it go. Acknowledge and appreciate their contribution and their effort. Do not step in to make it neater. Instead, communicate your trust and confidence in their ability by letting them finish the task, in their way and at their speed. And, if they have an idea about the gift or their contribution to the gift, listen and discuss that idea. If at all possible, utilize their idea. Be excited with them for their idea and “brag on” that idea to reveal their involvement in the whole gift-giving process. After all, their idea expresses their love and generosity. Share in that love and generosity with your own excitement.
Two simple ways to use Christmas gift shopping to increase competence in your children…and have fun at the same time! Merry Christmas!

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