December 06, 2006
Well it's that time of year again. The frenzy of spending and getting is upon us and retailers are hoping that we will surrender to that frenzy with sufficient abandon to fill their coffers and make the economic world go round efficiently and profitably. So do I.
At the same time, all of you parents out there would do well to consider how gift-giving might be employed as a way of civilizing your children, that is, of offering them an opportunity to exercise generosity and gratitude, two backbones of what turns people into caring members of society.
Now obviously some of you are in a much better position than others financially to help your children make this gesture at holiday time. But practically everyone is in the position to create at least some token activity that aims at helping your child appreciate the enormous value of giving to others. How it builds character and broadens the soul, how it deepens the wellsprings of compassion that this blighted world of ours so desperately could use.
So the question is how to go about being generous? Well there are all kinds of programs out there — Toys for Tots and others — that offer ready-made opportunities to have your child exercise generosity. Many civic and church groups have programs for putting gifts into the hands of the less fortunate. What is great about some of these programs is that they are set up in such a way that your child will have the opportunity to give the gift directly to some other child who is happily awaiting such a gift.
There is nothing quite like a personal exchange to help another person. To be in the presence of someone who is appreciative of the gesture is to have a very important experience in what it feels like to be a caring person. The emotional component is much more likely to be felt in such a context as compared to just dropping a toy in a box impersonally or just surrendering some toy to the parent who then carries out the rest of the act of generosity out of the sight of the child. The child will likely not pick up much of anything from that, although it is certainly better than nothing.
But think about it.
So many of our children are drowning in toys and gadgets left over from previous years that the items no longer hold any interest for them. The novelty has worn off, as it does in so many instances, much to the consternation of parents, to be sure. But the toys are still good and would hold extraordinary novelty for some child who has nothing or less than nothing. Thus, there are two ways to go: first you can gather up the toys of holidays past and, if at all possible, go with your child to distribute them through one of the donation programs. Or, you can shop with your child for new toys with the agreement that one or more items will be given to another child.
There are also monetary gifts that can be targeted and used by older children in this way. We set aside a modest sum for our grandchildren to make donations with as they come upon some person or organization they deem worthy of the gift. So, help your children learn to love giving and let me know how it goes.
Frank Mosca Ph.D. is a licensed counselor, life and marital coach with practices in Hampton Bays and Garden City. Check out his views at puttingmindsinmotion.com.