Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Using Gift-Giving to Teach Empathy

A big part of parenting is getting children to realize the entire world does not think like them, feel like them, or revolve around them. It is imperative to teach children to think of others and to be able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. Gift-giving has been very helpful in teaching this concept to my kids.

In this busy world we live in, giving gift cards has become the norm. While giving gift cards is easy and usually well-received, it completely takes away the chance for a child to learn. He misses out on using what he knows of the other person to make a good gift choice. He's not getting the chance to make the receiver feel special. What are the best gifts you've received? I'm going to bet they weren't gift cards.

I have discovered that being a good gift-giver is a learned skill. ((And some people never learn it.) So we have to teach our kids how to do that, too.

Kids + Christmas + a dollar store = a marvelous annual tool in the instruction of empathy and good gift-giving. 

The dollar store (NOT Dollar General. Things cost more than a dollar there.) is the perfect place to let kids loose to choose presents. Since everything in the store costs the same, it doesn't have to become a budgeting lesson, with the child having to worry about a set amount to spend. It is all about being creative and finding something the gift receiver will like. And since it's only a dollar per gift, kids can get plenty of practice, buying gifts for all siblings and both parents. It only costs $42 for all 6 of our kids to shop. Plus, the store isn't huge, so the kids don't get too overwhelmed with choices.

If you ever decide to do this, be prepared before walking into the store. Make sure your child(ren) hear more than once that this will be a shopping trip for them to buy things for other people. No one will be buying a gift for himself. Make a list of people for whom gifts will be purchased, emphasizing the fact that the child's own name is not on that list. If you have two (or more) small children, it helps to have another adult with you.

When arriving at the store, I suggest you start looking for a gift for an adult, far away from the toy aisles. Get the child in the frame of mind of shopping for someone else without the temptation of seeing all of the things he himself would like.

Questions to be asking while at the store...

What do you think Dad would like?

Why? How would he use it?

What kinds of things does Mom like to do? Can you find a gift that has something to do with that?

Is there something Sister needs? Have you heard her say she could use something?

If a child is having difficulty answering the questions, be more specific. Ask something like, "Grandma likes to bake. Can you find something she could use in the kitchen?"

If a child picks up something that is more for himself than for the receiver, ask leading questions.

Why would Brother like that? Does it seem like it would be more for someone your age instead of his? How about we look at ______, since he likes to ______".

For the kids, half the fun is sneaking around the store, making sure their siblings and parents don't see what they are buying. Having two adults is very handy for this. When it's time to buy a gift for you, hand the little one off to the other adult.

You may be surprised at how well your child does. I am always amazed at how observant the kids are and their ability to find something the receiver would actually like and use.

The best indicator I have of the success of these shopping trips?

On Christmas morning each and every year, the kids choose to open the dollar store gifts from each other before they open the gifts from us or from Santa.

What sorts of things do you do/have you done to encourage kids to put themselves in other people's shoes?

This post was written as part of the A-Z Challenge, where participants write every day of April, with the posts corresponding with the letter of the day.

Have a lovely day!

27 comments:

  1. What a fabulous way to teach a lesson and have family fun at the same time. My kids love the little stocking gifts for each other. (Many purchased at the dollar store). I agree with you about gift cards. It's the boring, I can't think of anything else, fastest easiest gift. And I LOVED the linked post. That scale. UGH! The worst gift I every got from my husband was "I really wanted to get you something for your birthday, but I didn't know what. So you pick it out." OK.

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    1. Hahahaha!! It is hard as the years go by to find original, good gifts for a spouse. I must admit, I sometimes wish I could do what your husband did. However, I'm smart enough to know not to do it! :)

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  2. My best gifts have always been the homemade ones... We have a tradition at Christmas that you make eveyone a gift and only purchase for the kiddos. Its great! I get some great stuff that is all over the house and office! I love it all! All really good suggestions here. nice job!

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    1. Bryan's mom and aunts used to have the same tradition. They really came up with some original things! And all in the days before Pinterest. :)

      Thank you!

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  3. This is a wonderful tip! I love it!

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  4. really great ideas and a good reminder to to teach our kids about the special qualities our family and friends have . I try to instill that as well and was recently complimented by Mimi how my gifts always has thought behind right down to wrapping it - (I guess she loved the Kona Coffee we gave her for Christmas) yet the gift cards work well too especially and only when (usually James) announces on that day oh its so-so bday and we are all going to his house - then my motto is you get what you get and can't be upset. :)

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    1. Thanks!
      There most certainly is a time and place for gift cards. I've given them, too.

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  5. One of the better of life's lessons. Very well done. My son will be 45 this year and I really can't remember what I taught him about gift giving. I'm sure there was something.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Thank you! I'm sure there was. You've got a good head on your shoulders, so I'm sure you taught him well. :)

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  6. simple but way more effective than anything else I would have thought of... that 'put yourself in their position'... your more appropriate leading questions being clearly being the effective way to get a child to imagine from the perspective of another person.

    neat

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  7. Well done! Gift giving is such a great way to teach generosity of heart. Wonderful article with very useful tips.
    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Thank you for visiting. I'm glad you liked the post.

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  8. I used to enjoy buying gifts for my family members when I was a kid. They always commended me on my original thinking, but maybe they were just being nice. These days if someone really feels compelled to give me a gift then the gift cards work for me since I'm not all that thrilled about having more stuff---I've been trying to get rid of things!

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I would most certainly take those relatives at their word.

      Ha! I agree, there is a time and place for gift cards! Gas cards for new drivers and restaurant cards for people who don't want stuff but like to eat out are two examples. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. Have you heard Tom Paxton's song, "I Hope Daddy Likes This Tie"?
    We did exactly the same thing you did, down to the "You are not shopping for yourself" line. :-)

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    1. I have not! I'll go look it up right now!

      Well, we do have (some of) the same blood running through our veins. I'm not surprised. :)

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  10. I'm not a good gift giver. I WANT to be, but I don't think I'm very creative.
    I love your tradition of having the kids buy for each other at the Dollar Store (NEVER to be confused with Dollar General). I can just picture them scouring the place for the perfect gifts!

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    1. Aw, Dyanne. You can learn. Come to Indiana and I'll take you to the dollar store, too. :)

      It is a wonderful sight, watching them all going through the aisles. They have so much fun with it.

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  11. Hey! Christine! yeah, I know I already commented, but I'm here 'cause I stumbled across 'the Coop in the ridiculously long list of blogs in the 'Chicken and Rice April Blog Challenge'
    cool*

    *well, yeah, odd too in that simply seeing someone in an unfamiliar context should make any difference, but then…remember the first time you saw your teacher outside of the classroom!…. 'Mrs Brenen! hi, it's clark… so you buy food too?'

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    1. WHERE???? I have yet to find mine. Give me an approximate number, would ya?

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  12. So glad to hear that you do this. It's important that we raise children who think beyond themselves; and honey, I've been riding the bus long enough to know that not everyone does...

    Pearl

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    1. Yes, I've read plenty of stories of the bus riders. My goal is to raise kids who would never be the bus drivers you write about. :)

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  13. That's lovely :) Such a beautiful idea.

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  14. I love the Dollar store for kids - it's the best. We always gave to the food pantry when our kids were young and at home. Taking food to social services helped them to see the families who needed help. We also worked on a couple Habitat for Humanity houses. As our kids got older, they were required to attend youth group and get involved with the service projects they always had going on. I am so with you that kids need to be trained to look outward and see the needs of others.

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