Instilling a grateful heart in our children

Two days before last Christmas my daughter decided that she wanted an Aurora doll.  She had never mentioned it before and all of our Christmas shopping was already done.  She had asked for a few other items that I’d already bought and put under the tree, so I decided that it wasn’t necessary to purchase as doll as well.

We were on budget and I had already exceeded the number of toys I had promised myself I would buy.

Christmas morning was beautiful.  The girls got up, we had a leisurely breakfast and opened our gifts.  It was a fun morning.  And then, there were tears.  I didn’t really understand exactly what the tears were about but when I heard the words “but I didn’t get the Aurora doll” and “Christmas is ruined” I almost choked on my coffee.

My beautiful daughter had received everything she’d asked for in her letter to Santa except for the one item, and it ruined her Christmas?

I realized very quickly that something had to happen but I wasn’t sure what.  As the day went on and the girls played with their new toys, my heart was seized with the desire to teach them that there is more to Christmas than things.

Later in the evening I asked the girls to go pick up their bedroom so that we could put their new toys away.  This was met with quite a temper tantrum from both of them so I decided right then and there that I was done.  All of their new toys were put away in my bedroom to be earned back by better attitudes and hopefully a new appreciation for what they have.

My girls did earn back their Christmas gifts over the coming days but I felt like a terrible parent. Not for taking away the gifts I had chosen to gift them with but more for the attitudes of ingratitude and entitlement that came out that day.  I realized that something had to happen and this year I am hoping to not have to deal with a situation like that again.

But how do we instill an attitude of gratitude in our children?  How do we make them realize that, not just in the holiday season, but in all seasons of life that we need to be thankful for what we have and not be so worried about the items we don’t?

I am still not 100% sure that I know the secret to that, but it’s something we are working on in our home.