Most parents take great pleasure in lavishing their children with every present on their Christmas lists. Why else would mothers wrestle one another for an Elmo TMX? Giving is what pleases parents the most about the holidays.

I only wonder how parents who have nothing to give must feel this time of year.

Although we’ve heard the popular phrase, “Christmas is a time for giving,” we forget to share it with our kids, leaving them hungry for PlayStations and new Nikes and disappointed when we can’t come through.

I spent the holidays with my sister and her children a few years back. It was then that I realized just how much kids expect. That Christmas morning my niece unwrapped her last gift and said to my sister, “I guess you couldn’t find a pair of in-line skates, huh?” An incredibly spoiled child? No. Just one who had received each Christmas rather than given.

So how do we pass on the incredible gift of selflessness to our children? How do we allow them to bask in the joy of giving, rather than receiving? Below are some strategies that will help your child become more cognizant of others this holiday season. Use them to perpetuate not only the joy of the season, but the joy of life.

Appreciate the everyday gifts

Appreciation starts with acknowledgement. Do you work, cook, clean, help with homework, and get everyone prepared for a good night’s sleep? If so, you deserve to be acknowledged as well as commended. When your children understand what you do for them on a daily basis, they will also realize that receiving Christmas gifts is an incredible bonus. This winter break, take your children to work if you can. Let them see what you do with your eight-hour day. Then have them help you with dinner and their little sibling’s homework. Afterwards, make them clean the kitchen and read your little one a bedtime story. If they are not too tired by the time they are finished, they will, more than likely, thank you for the gifts you give them every day, and not just the ones they receive on Dec. 25.


Read, and teach your little one how to spread holiday cheer. Books do a great job of administering moral lessons. This month, read your child bedtime stories about altruism. Choose books that focus on the spirit of the holidays and not just Christmas lists and Santa Claus. Search your local library and bookstores for holiday books with themes related to generosity, kindness, and selflessness, and select books that teach children that the truest gifts are gained through benevolence and compassion.


Whether serving meals at a homeless shelter or disseminating hats and gloves to those on the street, have your child lend a helping hand this holiday. Volunteering allows children to give their time without receiving anything in return, except, of course, the feeling of pride. To check for volunteer opportunities in the Austin area, go to and type in your zip code. You may also call hospitals, shelters, and libraries to inquire about volunteer positions for your teenagers.

Celebrate Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday that highlights family, culture, and community. Celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, celebrants uphold the seven principles of Kwanzaa throughout the week and give educational, cultural, and/or artistic gifts on the last day. While gift-giving is still the end-all to this special holiday, Kwanzaa gifts are generally educational, inexpensive, and reflect a child’s experiences and accomplishments throughout the year. Therefore, children are more focused on the effort put toward selecting/making the gift rather than the gift itself.

Donate Gifts

Does Christmas morning end with mounds of wrapping paper carpeting your living room floor? If so, encourage them to donate one of their gifts to someone less fortunate. There are millions of children without homes, without families, and, needless to say, without presents. Fortunately, your child can do something about it. Have them offer one of their gifts to a child who needs it. If your child cannot bear to part with a much-appreciated presents, have them donate an old-but well-kept-toy they no longer use.

While it’s hard not to spoil your child this time of year, make sure you don’t spoil the true meaning of Christmas. Teach them that giving brings just as much joy as receiving, and hopefully, they will live this credo throughout the other 11 months of the year.