We, Not Me: Teaching Service Instead of Selfishness

The holiday season is such a magical time. Sparkly lights, colorful decorations, yummy treats, presents piled under a pine tree, special movies to watch, shopping trips, and visits to see Santa…the season is practically bursting at the seams with extraordinary! Sometimes, however, our efforts to make this Christmas the most special Christmas ever can easily overload the schedule and convince our kids that everything is all about them. It’s not their fault for thinking that. And we aren’t wrong for passing on treasured traditions. But there are some meaningful ways to help turn our kids’ thoughts towards others during the holidays, and spend a little less time perfecting their wish lists.

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Service – Laura shared an impressive list of possible service opportunities in and around our community. Choose from one of those, or start small. Ask your local church if they have any service opportunities or ways to offer your time for the benefit of others.

Rituals – Instead of always surprising your kids with all of the special holiday traditions that you do and they enjoy, let them in on the fun of surprising each other sometimes, too. Invite your child to help you prepare a secret game for a sibling, or make a batch of cookies for a neighbor. Start each day by reading a book that reminds you of why you celebrate the holidays, or fill an Advent calendar with simple activities to do for others instead of just chocolate.

Songs – Each night before bed, sing a meaningful Christmas carol as a lullaby. Sing in the car. Sing after supper. Singing brings people together.

we not me 2Books – I love to give my kids a new Christmas book each year on Christmas Eve to read before going to bed. As I choose which books to buy or check out from the library, I try to pay attention to the overall message of the book: is it all about presents? Does it help its readers think of others, or focus on themselves? Does it fill up their hearts with peace on earth and goodwill toward men? Or does it merely celebrate the superficial parts of the holiday? I do think there is room for variety in reading, but the goal is to avoid a majority of books reinforcing the message of gifting and getting.

Christmas Lists – Instead of, or in addition to, traditional “wish lists”, encourage your child to make a list of homemade or inexpensive gifts he or she would like to give to others, and support them in accomplishing it. Remind them that time, talents, and friendship are the most precious gifts. Calling grandma on the phone, making a picture for a teacher, or a quick video of your child singing a song can be deeply rewarding to both the giver and receiver!

Gifting – Last year, I offered ways to bring meaning and simplicity to your holiday gifting. Think outside the consumerist gift box: give your time, give your talents, give your friendship. Some of the most meaningful presents are not found in a store and cost no money. Babysit for a single parent, share your child’s hand-me-down clothes and toys with a needy family with a younger child without charging them, or write a handwritten note to an elderly person who lives alone.

Diverse relationships – Forming relationships with people from different countries, cultures, socioeconomic status, age, or lifestyle broadens a child’s worldview and increases perspective-taking. Write cards or draw pictures for elderly people in a care center. Be a “Secret Santa” for another person or family and send them little surprises to show them they are cared about. Choose a gift to send to a family from a developing country through a company like Heifer International or Samaritan’s Purse. These kinds of organizations offer a steady source of food and income through providing livestock animals and education to needy families.

Modeling – Above all else, the way that we as parents speak and act during the holidays is the most powerful influence on our children. What does your child see you get excited about? Let your heart shine for your children, allowing them to see your love for others this holiday season.

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Lianna is a homesteading mama of three: a sparkly seven-year-old daughter, a joyful five-year-old boy, and a confident three-year-old boy. After graduating from the University of Iowa’s college of education, she started Wondergarten Early Enrichment Home, a multi-age, play-based early childhood program. A self-proclaimed Queen Dabbler, she has a long list of hobbies (from gardening and canning to sewing and painting), and doesn’t mind being only mediocre at all of them. She lives with her husband, mother, three kiddos, dog, cat, rabbits, dwarf goats, and chickens on an acreage in the country. The Cornally family spends their time talking about education, learning how to grow and preserve their own food, and romping around in their woods.

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