Little children love giving. Parents have the job of helping children transition from the pleasure of handing their toy to a crying child to buying gifts for others and becoming generous human beings.
When holidays and birthdays roll around, parents can encourage children to offer a gift of anything they are capable of creating: A private dance performance for the young child who rocks whenever music is played, a drawing of a favorite object or person, a special stone found on a walk or a trip, a favorite toy to be given away for a day, a dictated story about the person, a stick found in the shape of the first initial of the recipient’s name.
It’s the joy of giving that is so important to experience. Nothing lights up a child’s face like presenting something they have found, thought up, or made and getting that look of surprise and appreciation from the receiver of the gift. This can go on for years.
Giving an allowance starting when the child is aware of and cares about money (typically around 7 or 8, give or take) is an important aspect of growing into a generous person who enjoys giving. None of us can deny the importance of money and it’s power to buy objects of desire. A special leaf or bowl made of playdoh does the trick for just so long.
An allowance teaches the child about the value of saving and spending money—as well as its role in giving, whether to a charity or to buy a gift. When children have had a few years to learn the downside of spending all their money right away and the upside of saving for something special and more expensive (delayed gratification), they are probably ready to use some of their money to buy a gift for a parent, sibling or best friend.
Well ahead of Christmas, Hanukkah or a birthday, you can ask your child if she would like to think about buying presents with her money. Perhaps you could offer some jobs for her to choose from to earn a little extra spending money. Then talk about how much seems reasonable to spend and what she could buy with that amount.
Unless a child has had an allowance and learned about the use of money, she may not be willing to let go of whatever money she has acquired. If she likes the idea of buying gifts, you can plan a special time to shop together so you can teach her about what types of things are in her “budget.” What a wonderful life skills lesson your little shopping spree can become. Not to mention how much fun it is to spend that time together.
After the shopping is done, treat your child to a hot chocolate and a cookie at a favorite café and go over her purchases imagining what everyone will think when they open her presents.
The joy of giving can even beat the joy of getting. And you have the pleasure of knowing you are raising a generous and thoughtful child.