Teaching Kids Gratitude is a Great Thing – Especially During the Holiday Season

Of course, there is more to the holidays than the giving and receiving of presents. However, in the hustle and bustle of shopping, wrapping, mailing and endless Christmas lists, it is easy to get a bit caught up in the materialism – especially for children.

While there is nothing wrong with presents, it may be highly beneficial to get kids in tune with the true spirit of the season – giving and compassion. In fact, new research has found that parents who incorporate too many material possessions into their child-rearing techniques may wind up with materialistic adult children.

A study performed by researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois, Chicago, surveyed over 700 adults. Participants were asked about their childhoods, their relationships with their parents, and about how their parents used both reward and punishment techniques during various stages of childhood.

Results of the survey showed that three things in particular led to higher materialism levels in children: awarding gifts to show love and affection, using material gifts as rewards, and taking away possessions as punishment.

Study co-author Marsha Richins states, “our research suggests that children who receive many material rewards from their parents will likely continue rewarding themselves with material goods when they are grown — well into adulthood — and this could be problematic. Our research highlights the value of examining childhood circumstances and parenting practices to understand consumer behaviors of adults.”

Ian Chaplin, another of the study’s authors, adds, “it’s OK to want to buy things for your children, but remember to encourage them to be grateful for all the people and things they have in their lives. Each time children express their gratitude, they become more aware of how fortunate they are, which paves the way for them to be more generous and less materialistic. Spend time with your children and model warmth, gratitude and generosity to help curb materialism.”

So, what can you do this holiday season to instill gratitude in your children, and take some of the focus off the gifts? The following are a few suggestions:

tVolunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter or Meals on Wheels program with your child. That way, you will both be helping those who are less fortunate, while your child learns to be grateful for what they have.

Sponsor another child or family in need. Ask your child to donate old toys and clothes to make someone else’s holiday brighter.

Along with writing a letter to Santa, have your children write a list or letter of all that they have to be grateful for. They could even write to Santa thanking him for last year’s presents!

To the spirit of the season!

-The Alternative Daily


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