From Gimme to Giving

Often as a parent we believe we are teaching our kids values that are important to us, yet we also want to be giving to our children. I find that many times parents are shocked that their child had a break down at the store or temper tantrum about wanting a toy or goodie. But what we sometimes forget is that we are teaching our children when we allow them to have, have, have or when we do not set boundaries and processes for them to succeed.

Here is a prime example. I do not usually get my kids toys when we go to the store, but on occasion I have told them they could get something for $1 (treat or stickers, etc..). Well after they had been given a $1-2 goodie several times in a row and I did not give them something on the next trip to the store my kids had an all out tantrum . The trip to the store was a nightmare. I wondered why my children acted this way and then it hit me. I was responsible for making them come to expect they would get a small goodie. They had observed a pattern in my behavior and when my behavior changed without notice they broke down. Once I realized what was happening, I was able to set new expectations and better behavior from my kids when we go to the store. Are you wondering how I stopped the tantrums from our trips to the store?

With these 5 strategies any parent can use:

1. Set Clear Expectations before Entering any Store or Restaurant

Before going to a store with your child discuss what will happen during your excursion. Tell him what you are going to the store for and what you are not getting. For instance, if I do not plan to let them get anything I tell them so, and if we are getting a toy for a party I explain that ahead of time and tell them we are not buying any toys for them so that when we visit the toy aisle I have a clear understanding of why we are in their favorite section.

2. Create a Wish List for Your Child

If they ask for toys, games, other items I tell them lets write it down so they can decide if it is something they want to ask for- for their birthday or Christmas

If my kids ask for a toy or video game during the Fall, I tell my kids they should put their favorite gift ideas onto their Christmas Wish List. I then proceed to tell them unless they are buying the item themselves, I am not buying any toys, games, etc… I also remind them it will not be long before Christmas arrives and they get presents.

I also explain that just because they have asked for a list of gifts does not mean Santa or their family will get it for them. I tell them that Santa has many children to give gifts to and has to limit what each child is given.

3. Change Your Language

Our language, actions and attitude determine how our children will act when it comes to getting things they want. If we want to promote a healthy respect for patience, an understanding of need versus want, teach kids how to delay gratification then is it important we teach them how to do those things. One way we do that is by telling them how we are patient and delay buying things we need or want in our own lives. It is also important that we talk to them about how to be patient and give them words and ways to do so. I tell my children the following:

If you want that toy you can save your money and buy it once you have enough money or ask for it for your birthday or Christmas if it is really what you want. I tell my kids to write it down and they can decide if that is really a toy, game, item they want. Usually the item is the ‘toy de jour’ and tomorrow will bring a shiner or more enticing toy.

4. Create a Reward System for Great Behavior

Determine a reward system for your child’s behavior. You may want a daily behavior chart, but if you want to encourage great behavior when you are at stores and restaurants create a reward system so that after 10 trips to the store or 1 month you will give them something or let them spend $1-5 for their exceptional behavior while shopping. Once again this can also create an expectation you do not want to continue- but you have to weigh if it will allow your shopping trips to be more enjoyable and make giving them something on occasion worthwhile.

5. Give to Others Regularly

Talk to your child about some of the different types of Charities or groups that help others. You might mention kids that have no family (orphans), people who may be lonely (nursing home), starving children, shelter animals, women and kids in shelters, kids with cancer, and so on. Ask them who they would like to help. If you can decide on a group, you can help organize a cookie sale or host a little party for the charity to raise money.

This will begin to show your child that there is more to the world than just them and their wants.

6. Create a Day of Giving in your House

Pick one day a week or month that will be our family day of giving. Decide how you will give to a family member, someone you know or the community. Plan to do something special that day for someone. For each Day of Giving, let each family member have a turn deciding how to give that day. This will help your kids and family put the focus on others instead of material things and themselves.

7. Create a sense of Community in Your Home- Everyone Pitches In

It is so important that children learn how to live within a community. Your household is a small community. People within a community need to be active to keep the community working and looking good. I encourage you to assign each family member jobs or chores in the home by explaining that everyone in this house pitches in and helps keep your house running.  My kids fold clothes, clean the bathrooms, help get the trash together, and set the table. I explain how much work mom and dad have to do every day to keep up the house and those jobs, which I do with them, are the way they help pitch in to keep our house in order.

Even very young children can help with basic chores and often younger children are more eager to help. Start off with giving each family member a weekly or daily job to do at home and then add to the list once the first job is getting done regularly. Even most classrooms assign jobs to the kids in the class, such as calendar, door, trash, line helpers. Embrace the idea of community and get your family to pitch in.

Remember changing your child’s attitude and behavior from Give me to a Giving way does not happen in a single day. If it took months or years to reinforce that they get what they want it will take some time and consistency on your part. Start with one idea and build from there. Here’s to raising children with a giving spirit one lesson at a time.

Published on: December 09, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Kristin Fitch

Kristin's background is in corporate management in the field of Publishing and Site Operations. Kristin worked for a regional news and community site owned by Landmark Communication, Inc for 8 years. Her Masters is in Humanities with an emphasis in writing and she is currently editor of both and She is the mother of three lively boys.

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