Teaching Kids To Give Gifts From The Heart

Dec 18, 2022

With all of the marketing going on for the Holiday season, do you get concerned about keeping your kids grateful and grounded?  This is a question that I commonly hear from parents this time of year, and my response is to teach children about gifts from the heart, and how to increase gratitude.

Most of us associate “gifts” with something that we buy for someone else.  We think of a present as a physical gift wrapped up with a bow that you might give for Christmas or a birthday.  But I invite you to consider giving “gifts” that aren’t bought at a store.  

Gifts from the heart don’t cost anything, and these gifts may actually mean more to someone than any gift you could buy.

What are some possible gifts from the heart that kids could give?
They might be…
Asking the kid that’s always alone on the playground to join in the game.
Smiling at the shy girl and telling her that she looks pretty in that sweater.
Looking the lunch lady in the eye to say thank you and have a nice day.
Asking your teacher good morning, how are you? And stopping long enough to really hear the answer so she knows that you’re listening.
A hug for a frazzled parent, or helping to clear dishes after dinner without being asked.

There are all sorts of gifts from the heart that we can give, our kids just need to be taught how!
Here are three steps to teach kids about gifts from the heart and being grateful.

1 - Teach them about “Gifts From The Heart” and brainstorm ideas.

Talk to your kids about the concept, and ask them when and where they can give gifts from the heart.  You might have to give them a couple of ideas to get them started but then stop and wait patiently as they come up with some of their own.  The silence may be uncomfortable if they don’t chip in right away, but it’s okay!  Give time for their brain to process the question and come up with solutions.

Then each night at dinner or before bed, ask them what gift they shared or received that day.  If they know that they are going to be asked, they will work to remember and come up with something to share.  And the best way to teach our kids is by modeling it ourselves so get involved in giving gifts from the heart and have your own examples to share.  Extra points if you give a “gift” when they are with you and can see you doing it.

2 - Pay attention to the feelings.

Talk to your kids about how it feels to give AND receive the gift.  

How did it make you feel to give that gift from the heart?

How do you think your gift made that person feel?

These questions bring awareness to how good it feels to be kind and they help our kids develop empathy as they think about how other people feel and realize how their actions can affect someone else.  They are powerful because they help your kids realize the direct impact of their actions, especially when they are kind and helpful!

As for you, how often does someone offer to help you — and you decline the help?  How often do you tell others that you’ve got it covered when you really could have used a hand?  Many of us have a hard time accepting help, even when we can really use it.  When you stop to think about how good it feels to help others, I invite you to consider that you are taking away the opportunity for them to feel good when you decline their help.  Consider that your kids are watching you, so you’re teaching them the same.

3 - Notice when someone gives YOU a gift and express real appreciation.

Your kids are always watching you so work on noticing when someone gives you a gift from the heart and express real appreciation.  

We can miss true moments of gratitude, as well as the opportunity to return the good feeling with an automatic “thank you”.  Imagine if you took just a minute to say thank you for helping to brighten my day to the cashier that lifted you up, or even I’m so appreciative that you stopped to hold the door open and waited for me.  I guarantee that you would lift that person up in return.

In your list of questions with your kids, ask if they received any gifts from the heart so they start noticing as well.

Did anyone give YOU gifts from the heart today?

How did it make you feel?

How do you think it made them feel?

How did you respond?

Our brains are not naturally designed to look for the gifts in life.  Instead, they are designed to look for the negative and potential danger in our lives as that is what kept our ancestors alive. We have to intentionally train and program our brains to look for the gifts.  The good news is that when you make a practice of looking for and giving gifts from the heart — and you model this for your kids — you help make it a natural practice for them as well. 

If we start focusing on looking for the gifts of the season, we will start being more aware and present to them.  Most of the time they’re already there, you just need to look for them.

Thank you so much for reading my blogs.  I’m on a mission to build a new emotionally healthy and resilient generation from the ground up. I hope these tips and strategies are helping you parent differently and that they are having a ripple effect on your kids and families.    Happy Holidays!

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