Each December I ask my children, Toby and Kathy, now seven and nine, to go through their toys and clothes and set aside what they have outgrown or no longer use. Then I check what they’ve selected, weeding out worn-out items and exercising my veto power in a few cases, and box up the best of the rest to give to others who have less than we do. Besides instilling in the children a spirit of giving, I have found this to also be an effective way to trim down on clutter and put “gently used” items that they no longer need or want to good use.
Last Christmas both of my children seemed more materialistic about the holiday—more focused on the presents they were hoping to receive, and less inclined toward giving. I wondered why, as well as whether or not they were aware of their change in attitude.
I decided to take an indirect approach. “What do you think is the true meaning of Christmas?”
Of course they knew that Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, but they stopped at that.
“On the first Christmas, did God give us only His rejects?” I asked.
“No,” Toby replied thoughtfully. “He gave us the very best He had—His most special treasure.”
“And that is the true spirit of Christmas,” I explained. “To give of our best to others, like God gave us His best to us.”
The kids thought about this for a bit and then came up with a plan to give away some of their favorite toys, rather than just the ones they were tired of. Toby chose to give some of his favorite Matchbox cars, and Kathy decided to give one of her dolls. We packed these with the rest of the items we had set aside, and I took the children with me when I dropped off our Christmas donations.
Instilling values in my children is one of my greatest responsibilities as a parent, and teaching them to think of others before themselves is a big part of that. Giving sacrificially shouldn’t be a once-a-year occurrence, of course, but Christmas is a perfect opportunity.