Christmas Character Building3 min read

Samuel Smiles said, "Worst of all are the grumblers and growlers at fortune–who find that whatever is, is wrong," or not enough.

Quiet a few years ago, we had a Christmas day that changed all the Christmas days to come. We had a nice large Christmas with lots of presents for the children. The children opened their presents, and then the grandparents came over with gifts. After opening a present from a grandparent, one of my children said, "Is that all?"

I about died! Not only was this a huge social no-no, but my child was behaving very selfishly and that was unacceptable. This kind of selfish behavior shows in-gratitude. As soon as we stop being thankful to those around us, and to our God, we have chosen to alter our character for the negative.

After this horrible Christmas look in the mirror, I realized that I needed to teach my children more gratitude. When they were younger, my children always said please and thank you, and showed sincere appreciation for gifts or mementos. What had happened? Our children had been given too much, and were acting spoiled. Plain and simple. I couldn't laugh this one off, the situation was partly my fault. It is also important to note that some people actually feel showing gratitude is a sign of weakness. Gratitude is a sign of humility and meekness, but not a sign of weakness!

Since the above Christmas, I have given my children less for birthdays and Christmas so that they appreciate what they get, and I have made a special effort to make humanitarian service part of our family Christmas tradition. We pick new projects every year. Probably the most important thing I do to teach my children to focus on showing gratitude, is I pre-teach how to act when you open a present. We practice what kinds of compliments the children can give the gift giver, etc. As part of the pre-teach I have told my children how people feel when you show genuine appreciation, as opposed to when you don't show appreciation, or you are not genuine.

Going through this small pre-teach before my children receive gifts has made a HUGE difference in how my children show gratitude. Because the children have already practiced showing gratitude during the pre-teach, the action becomes more comfortable, and is more likely to be used.

If my children don't show proper gratitude, I pull them aside and do a corrective teaching right then. I do this in private, because it puts a child on the spot too much to enforce gratitude in front of the person you are supposed to be showing your gratitude to. Correcting your child publicly also, suggests that you don't trust them enough to change their own behaviors, because you are adding social pressure to your corrective teaching.

Children can learn any skill by being taught that skill ahead of time, practicing the right skill and then being corrected appropriately when the instruction isn't followed.

Merry Christmas! Show thanks this year to your family, friends, and God.

Nicholeen

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