As exciting and wonderful as the holiday season is, it’s also ripe with requests for more. More of what?  Toys, gadgets, games, expensive (yet, festive) holiday experiences. In short, for kids of all ages, the holidays can become a time of the “gimmies”. The “gimmies” may look like creating a mile-long gift wish list, or constantly demanding to do fun activities.  For parents, walking the fine line between creating magical holiday experiences and anchoring our kids in reality is enough to turn any of us into a Grinch.

From a kid’s point of view, there may be little understanding of a parent’s need to work, family budgetary constraints, or family values. Kids may not understand why a desired toy or experience may not be age appropriate (like a smart phone, or the violence in a rated M videogame) How many times have we heard … (“But mom…dad…everybody else has it!” or “Everyone is going there!”  So here’s a question, what can parents do to help their children grow from Grinch to Good?

Ways to Nurture Gratitude 

Parents can find opportunities to model what it’s like to be a helpful family member or friend. Talk about ways to be gracious when giving or receiving during the holiday season. Use the holiday season as a “teachable moment” and explain the season of giving through your family values lens. This can help your children understand the choices you make and the limits you set for them, even if they do not agree with your decision. Tell stories, real or imagined, of your own youth. A focus can be a parent, friend or family member that had a case of the “gimmies”, or tell tales where you experienced the joy of giving to others. Extra points for accompanying photos or videoclips from yesteryear.

For elementary schoolers, books are wonderful ways to kickstart these topics.  Check out The Little Book of GivingHoliday Edition by Zach Bush and Laurie Friedman. It’s a great book for ages 3-11 about the importance of giving (Available on Amazon.) Additionally, A tried and true, oldie but goodie book is The Berenstain Bears get the Gimmies by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Read Aloud Available Here.

Help Your Child Experience the Joy of Giving

Use the following ideas to teach your kids that the joy of giving exceeds that of receiving.

  • Create handmade gifts (versus purchasing) for friends and family. Allow your child to be part of the process of shopping for or making a gift. Teach children how to give a gift that will be appreciated by the recipient, rather than being something the gift giver would enjoy.
  • Experience giving to others less fortunate, like by cleaning out gently used toys or technology to pass on to others.
  • Give back to others who give to us. For example, bake cookies and deliver them to first responders like firefighters, police officers or hospitals.
  • Create and send holiday cards to those in the military, family members, neighbors who may be isolate this holiday season.
  • Give some non-tangible gifts that are not on your child’s list. Like reading time, game of their choice, their choice for dinner, watching a favorite movie on Netflix.
  • Pay it forward. Have your child shop for a gift for a child in need instead of receiving one of their own.
  • Learn about how other cultures and religions celebrate holidays.
  • Include donations to charities meaningful to your child on their list (e.g. Animal rescue). This blog provides child-friendly ways of explaining donating as well as suggestions of charities open to child- size donations ($12 or less)

Less Grinch, More Good

More ways to help kids understand the positive impact giving has on themselves and others.

  • Modeling giving back to others by helping as a guest, giving caring gifts to others, helping the family prepare for the holidays
  • Including children in the work of holiday preparations (e.g. helping in the kitchen, setting the table, taking out the trash) versus doing for them
  • Asking your child how they feel when they are being helpful to others.
  • Catching your child being good and reinforce the positive. Say to them, “I noticed how you are helping out. Thanks for helping to clear the table.”  Or, “I know you like the present Aunt Liz gave you.  It was so nice the way you thanked her for thinking of you.”

Virtual Volunteer Ideas for Teens

Let’s not forget the older kids! Here are some virtual ways teens can practice the art of giving this holiday season.

  • Sew masks for those in need
  • Become a virtual tutor
  • Play games with seniors over video chat
  • Start a fundraiser
  • Become a pen pal to younger students

Finally, teaching children to appreciate what they have is a long-term endeavor. Weaving gratitude into day to day life goes a long way in preventing the “gimmies” and Grinch-like behaviors from ruining holiday celebrations. For more ideas on teaching thankfulness and appreciation, check out our post on The Many Benefits of Gratitude.  Have a very happy holiday season!


Written by Carol Miller, LCSW

Edited by Danielle Bentz, MA

Photo credit: Andrew Neel via unsplash