instilling appreciation

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iVillage Member
Registered: 08-29-2003
instilling appreciation
Tue, 11-08-2005 - 3:46pm

Tis the season when my children will get spoiled rotten by all their relatives, despite my attempts to tell Grandma to go easy on the gift giving.
We already have a problem with our 6 & 7 yo leaving expensive toys at friends houses, out in the yard at night and basically a trail whereever they go. Just the other night they both left their scooters out all night- my husband told them "that's it! no xmas presents for either one of you because you don't appreciate or take care of the toys you already have!" never mind the fact that a couple hours later at a relatives house they were both given new toys....hmmmmm, way to stick to it honey!

what are some ideas on teaching appreciation? we bag up and give toys and clothes several times a year...any other ideas?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Wed, 11-16-2005 - 10:53am

Bagging up their toys and clothes to give away is a great thing for them to do. Do they actually see where it goes? Have they ever visited a shelter? What about a children's hospital? Sometimes it takes seeing what little others have helps to appreciate what you have. Not just in the way of clothes and toys, but health and family as well. I know that in driving to work, I see things that give me a reality check and sense of appreciation. Especially when I'm driving my nice shiny car and I see mothers walking to the laundramat with grocery carts and strollers full of laundry and kids in tow--or standing at a bus stop in the rain.

Our rules for toys left out or not properly caring for something--they are taken away and must be *earned* back. Not "it goes away for a week" gone, but "it goes away until you prove that you should have it back".

Grandmas have the right to give. I'm afraid that in most cases you can't expect them to stop. Even so much as suggesting that Grandma give less, or a different type of gift, could be viewed as you being disrespectful to your elders. But gosh, how to draw the line?

Good luck.

and her two "whirlwinds"
     DS-13 & DD-9

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 11-15-2005 - 2:45pm

This is definately a subject that requires thought and experience. LOL! SOme things work for some and others for others, etc....

What we do is similar to Susan. We concentrate on the celebration with family and friends rather than on the gifts. For Christmas we make "wish boxes." We write down a wish for people who are near and dear to us, and put it in boxes. We give them with cookies or homemade ornaments. We started this a few years ago and it's been great.

We also limit the amount of gifts the kids get themselves, and include the buying of a gift to someone else as one of them. It's a gift to be able to give.

Something else we do is during birthday parties and Christmases, etc....we don't allow opening of gifts with friends and family around. We spend all of that time with them, singing and celebrating. The gifts can be opened every half hour. That way it really encourages appreciation for what they have and not for how quickly they can open their gifts. In fact, last year Tre was hoping for less so he could play sooner, lol!!

We also do random acts of kindness and citizenship activites often. We're military and we bring the soldiers goodies and meals at the gates. We send letters to hospitals with children that have to stay. We offer assistance to people in stores when they leave and can't open their doors. We give stuffed animals to polie officers or medics for kids. Things like that that are done all year long have a longer lasting influence on our children rather than a super duper giving away of toys at one time of year.

Christmas is a time of joy and presents are a good part of that. Presents and gifts allow us to show love and appreciation. Thats a gift in itself. Just be sure to counter act the reception of all of that by giving all througout the year in many ways and for many occasions....even no special ocassion at all. =)

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iVillage Member
Registered: 06-20-2000
Sun, 11-13-2005 - 9:43am

Oh, finally found the name of the book! It's "Material World" - we got it from the library. Even though it's 10 years old & some of the data has certianly changed, I think the point still comes across loud & clear. Interesting, too.
Here's the info on it:

Hope it helps someone - or at least it's an interesting discussion starter...

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2004
Fri, 11-11-2005 - 3:00pm

I have a DS(6.5) and DD (almost 10) and this exact thing started to really bug me about the time DS was born. Every time someone walked into the house DD asked "where's my present". I have done a few things over ther years that have been effective, and although I still have to deal with the "gimmies" etc, it is not as bad as it was.

First, I initiated a "No tangible presents unless it is a birthday or holiday" rule, and I stuck to it. The only exceptions I allow are tokens from trips away from home, such as the "my mom went to paris and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" type things, and intangibles such as theater tickets, baseball games, and the like. Believe me it was tough to tell my mother she couldn't buy the kids anything, and it was tough to enforce in the begining, but I stood my ground. I also no longer allow the sibling gift at a birthday. My ex-MIL was great at spending a fortune on both kids for each of thier birthdays, it takes away from the special day of the birthday child.

Second, every year the weekend of thanksgiving and the weekend of fathers day the kids have to go through thier toys etc. If they have not used it in the last six months, unless it is a seasonal item like a sled, it goes to charity. This limits the number of toys significantly, less mess, less clutter, and less to try and stuff into thier rooms. Also, if I have to tell them more than once to put a toy away it goes into "the box" for a week. Second offense with the same toy is two weeks, third offense a month, fourth time it goes to charity. I keep a list so I remember.

Third, and my favorite is we volunteer at a soup kitchen about 3 times a year. I make sure one of those times is always somewhere between thanksgiving and hanukkah. Seeing that others are far less fortunate that they are helps tremendously.

It's not easy, and as I said it's not completely effective, but it helps.


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-31-2004
Fri, 11-11-2005 - 12:55pm

This post has really gotten me thinking. Because of course we all want our kids to appreciate what they have, but what child ever really, truly appreciates what they have? We all teach them the proper social expectations, such as 'please' and 'thankyou' and to take good care of their toys, but is this really true appreciation? When did we, as adults, learn to truly appreciate what we have? Two things, for me, really made me aware of how wonderful my life is. First I read a book about an American Family living in impoverished Africa. They had children who were born there and when they moved back to the States, the children just could not BELIEVE how much stuff Americans had. Toothpaste, deoderant! Their perspective really stuck with me and opened my eyes to all the 'stuff' that we in the wealthier countries take for granted. But I was an adult when I read this book. I didn't understand this concept as a child at all.

The second thing that happened, which really made me realize how blessed I am, was the birth of my children. I had tough pregnancies, the loss of twins, a stillborn, bedrest and scares 'til the end with each pregnancy. So I do not take my family for granted anymore. I know on a deeper level how precious every moment with my loved ones are. Again, this realization was given to me as an adult.

I'm rambling, but I guess I just think, that we can only do so much with our own kids. You can be told over and over again that other people do not have it as well as you do, and you can feel sorry for those disadvantaged people and even get involved and try to help them, but does that mean you really appreciate what you have? I think it takes something a little bigger than what most parents can do or provide to give our children that perspective of looking at their surroundings and belongings in a new light, with wide open eyes noticing, "Wow! I am so lucky and blessed! It is possible that I could have been born into a family who couldn't provide all this for me." I think that for six and seven year olds, this is a tough concept to get across.

I have tried to just make everything a little less about what the kids get. For birthdays, we focus on throwing a really good party and we really think about how to make it fun for the guests. (Of course, not at the expense of the birthday kid, but we do try...) For Christmas, we try to focus on the spirituality of the season and emphasize family closeness and warmth toward each other. And of course we follow all the 'rules' such as good manners, thank you notes and giving to charity. And probably most importantly for our family, we try to pass on our spirituality and the notion that everything we have is given to us with grace from God. And all these things will, I hope, prepare our children for that moment when, as a young adult or grown-up, they suddenly really SEE what they have and really experience true appreciation for what they have.

I think that might be the best we can do.


iVillage Member
Registered: 06-20-2000
Wed, 11-09-2005 - 4:37pm

IMO, if they leave it, they must not care about it. I'd make it clear that's how I interpret their behavior, and have them accompany me to the charity drop box with all the stuff they leave outside, etc. Could create a bit of a kiddie scream-fest, but it'd probably get the point across, and I bet it'll only take a few visits to the charity box, if you stick to your guns about it. If not, so what, you're giving to kids who WILL appreciate the stuff & reducing clutter in your own house.

We've been trying as much as possible to give intangible gifts. Tickets to the ballet for our little ballerina from her Grandma, so they could go together; family trip to the planetarium, a movie they've been wanting to see, a visit to paint-your-own ceramics, etc. Toys seem to get played with & then cast aside & forgotten. Your family members may be less inclined to give material gifts once you bring up a good alternative. Offer creative suggestions to them that focus on their relationships with each kid, activities they can do together, etc.

Last Christmas worked out great, we were already in LA, so the only gift was a day at DisneyLand (turned out cheaper than "gifts" would have been, too!) Creates memories, minimal clutter....and so far, both our families AND the girls have truly LOVED doing experiential gifts; my younger dd is already talking about going to the circus for her birthday (it happens to be in town that week every year, I suspect it'll become her traditional bday gift!)

As a matter of fact, we're going tomorrow to the Great Wolf Lodge for a night - older dd's birthday gift from us.

Sure, experiential gifts take more thought (and maybe energy) than a trip to Toys R Us would, but....

Hope that helps a little...

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-18-2004
Tue, 11-08-2005 - 5:26pm
I wish I knew! I'm anxious to see replies to this one myself as we also have a 6 & 7 yo w/ no appreciation for anything.