Published on December 21, 2015 inParenting on LandOMoms.com
Emptying out the toy box to select a few for holiday donations to charity taught me an important parenting lesson this year. This is a task I do every year with the kids, and typical of 4-year-olds, my daughter is passively resistant of this exercise.
This is despite the fact that she knows new toys will be added to the storage bin in just a few weeks. And she even has ultimate control of which toy get sorted where. I never force her to donate a toy, but the expectation of generosity during the holidays is set.
And then, I figured out I was doing it all wrong.
One day last holiday season, as she stood above a mountain of donations in near distress, my daughter asked why “Charity” gets to keep all of her toys. Shocked, I realized that she really had no idea why we were sorting the toys in the first place. Despite my explanations, my daughter thought “Charity” was just another little girl like her, with two parents, a roof over her head, plenty to eat and toys to play with. In fact, even more toys…
Raising Moral Kids Year-Round
In an effort to demonstrate compassion and generosity during the holiday season, it occurred to me that forcing kids to donate their belongings might not be the best way to nurture morality. Feeling a tinge of defeat, I thought heavily on our parenting and fell upon this article on raising moral kids.
In it, I learned that raising children to live with compassion and empathy, or act with generosity and gratitude, is a function of our day to day lives. Being pre-social, sharing with others and standing against injustice are ways parents raise moral kids. It doesn’t begin or end with a season of the year.
“Raising children to live with compassion and empathy, or act with generosity and gratitude, is a function of our day-to-day lives.”
Tips to Help Your Kids Helps Others
While my little girl, by nature, has a heart of gold, I still believe the holidays are a great time to purposefully nurture morality. And so, here are a few, simple things my family has started to do this season to cultivate empathy and compassion.
1. Engage with someone new
Whether it’s on the playground or a kid in her class, the kids and I have decided to “spread holiday cheer” this year. Socializing and connecting with others help my child view these new friends as real kids and help nurture their ability to empathize with those they might not know.
2. Share your good fortune
Despite the fact that we donate monthly to various causes, I still believe the holidays bring a special opportunity to share the good fortune we’ve received. Instead of making them donate their toys to “Charity,” I’ve opted for new toys that the kids pick and buy for another child; though wrapping their old toys as presents for friends or kids at the playground seems less challenging. Ultimately, this season is about sharing: toys, food, their love and traditions.
3. Stand against injustice
As a once social worker in California, knowing that children go hungry in our country rips my heart apart. So much so that, although we make donations and sometimes even volunteer our time, I realized that I’ve masked my growing children from my disdain. In age appropriate parameters, I’ve since started to speak outwardly about the realities of hungry children with my daughter. As a little girl with a tender heart, she was at once saddened and inspired to act. And with just that conversation, I learned how making a stand against unfair things can help raise a moral child.
The holidays and the coming of a new year always makes me reassess what’s important in life, and being a good person – with values and morals – is the most important in my book. Raising moral kids is a year around job to be sure and with these three simple focuses, I think we’re off to a good start.