Teaching Children Gratitude, Not Greed, During the Holidays

Six steps to overcoming the "holiday spoils" and reining in holiday excess.

ByABC News via logo
December 17, 2009, 11:32 AM

Dec. 18, 2009— -- Every Christmas, a dear family friend showers my three kids with a bounty of gifts. The presents arrive in bulging black bags, usually filled with designer goods and the must-have, much-sought-after items of the season.

Last year, however, given the sorry state of the economy, our real-life Santa Claus reined in his lavish gifting and instead presented each of the children with a donation made in their name to a charity. They couldn't hide their disappointment ... and I couldn't hide my disappointment at their disappointment.

At the time I remember thinking to myself, "How could I have raised such an ungrateful threesome? Where did I go wrong?"

On this week's episode of "Moms Get Real" on ABC News Now, Juju Chang and I tackled this tricky subject of dealing with "holiday spoils" and how to keep an attitude of gratitude alive and well during the excesses of the season.

We were joined by the ever-wise "Good Morning America" family and life contributor Lee Woodruff, author of "Perfectly Imperfect," and Betsy Brown Braun, author of "Just Tell me What to Say," and started by 'fessing up to the types of parents we become during the holidays.

I copped to being an overgiver; Juju and Lee admitted to being grinches. We then launched into a lively conversation about how we could all give less, teach our kids to appreciate more, and stoke the spirit of the season at the same time.

As self-proclaimed "Grinches," Juju and Lee didn't need the tips and scripts that I did. I was the one with the kids saying, "That's all?" But thankfully, a course correction was possible.

Besty shared specific tips for moving from over-giver to a loving, but thrifty grinch. (I recommend that everyone print out this list along with your kids' Christmas lists!):

1. Give less, and expect and accept the disappointment. Your children will get over it quickly if they see that you're serious. (Read: Don't start waffling and look like you might cave and hit the mall because of their whining. Stand firm. It's best for everyone.)

2. Model gratitude as well as the pleasure you get in giving something to someone else. This happens not only at the holidays but all year long. Proclaim it for the world to see.