'Tis better to give ...

Yeah, right. Make your kids believe that. The holidays can be difficult for families who are trying to teach their children that there is something more to this time of year than just getting presents. Children often get a lot of gifts, and no matter how much you emphasize the real meaning of Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, it's still hard to counteract the effect of all those exciting new toys. One way is to teach children about giving in such a way that they actually enjoy it.

One of the first things you can do is to start your children giving gifts to their family members at an early age. If they are old enough to earn an allowance, increase it for several months before the holidays, but have them set the increase aside for their gift-giving fund. Or just give them a set amount of money to buy gifts. Don't force your child to forgo all of his regular allowance for months or work at lots of extra jobs to earn the money. That makes the gift-giving a painful sacrifice and, believe me, they won't enjoy it, no matter how good a moral lesson it is. The point is to teach them to like giving gifts to other people.

Sit down with your kids and figure out how much they are going to spend on each family member. Talk about what each person might like, and then plan a special shopping trip with your child. Take your budget along and make your kids stick to it. Make it a challenge for your child to find just the right gift, within the price range you've set. Keep the emphasis on finding good gifts for other people - and away from what your child wants to receive for himself. Little ones are going to find it tough at first to see all these nice gifts for others, and none for themselves, but stand firm and they will get used to it in time.

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