Minimalism With Kids: Gifts & Gratitude

 

How to balance a minimalist mindset with a culture of consumerism? How to teach our children gratitude without greed, appreciation without demand?

This is one of those issues that varies greatly from one family to the next. It can often be an extremely personal, and therefore extremely touchy topic to discuss, especially in groups of strangers. Where one mother might be overwhelmed with the amount of toys and clothes her child is gifted, and wishes for less – another mother might be reading and wishing that her child had that external love and attention from others, even if it meant more “stuff” coming in.

There really is no one right answer or magic solution, but overall I’ve found that a healthy mix of honesty, kindness and consistency makes a huge difference.

For me, minimalism, as with any lifestyle choice, is just that – a choice of mine and my husband’s for our family. It doesn’t automatically extend to everyone around me, nor should it. With our children, it’s important to us that their individual preferences are part of the equation as we parent and help grow their hearts.Β  That said, as their parents, it’s also important to us that we guide them them in the way we think best, and gratitude is a priority for us.

Children learn quickly to expect what has been offered. If my child becomes used to everything being done for him at home, piles of gifts at every birthday and holiday, entertainment/outings every weekend, then that will naturally become an expectation of routine, rather than a gift to be grateful for.

Habits, big or small, are easier taught at a young age. We’ve made chores and helping out part of family life together, rather than a process once they reach a certain age. It takes me 10 times longer to do the laundry with a toddler, but it gets them in a habit of working together to take care of our home and belongings.

Gratitude – not just for things, but for work done and time spent. A child who has never helped clean, fold a laundry, or take out the garbage can hardly be expected to appreciate it being done for them. And while appreciation from a toddler isn’t expected, lack of gratitude in a teenager or young adult is not quite so easy to deal with. πŸ˜‰

I’ve found something so simple as using the words “thoughtful,” “grateful,” “kind,” “generous” has made those concepts part of their every day vocabulary and behavior. “Thank you for clearing the table. That was thoughtful of you!” “I’m grateful to Grandma for inviting us over today!” “That was kind of Daddy to take you on a bike ride.” “It was generous of you to give her some of your snack.” Etc. Words matter to children, so much! When the words are backed up by consistent actions and expectations, the results are incredibly rewarding.

As a mother, it’s important to me that gratitude and kindness come first. There are approximately 8,000 ways of quietly maintaining family practices, none of which include denying family and friends the joy of giving. Children absorb those attitudes as fully as they do any good ones.

That said, excess is a very real problem in our modern world, and when it comes to kids and gifts – the excess can be simply overwhelming. This is where the whole my-house-my-rules thing comes into play. πŸ˜‰

If there are people in your life who consistently disrespect the values of your family, ignore your requests as regards your children, or frequently give “guilt gifts” that come with expectations… it does fall on us as parents to put a foot down and deal with the problem. A friend or relative’s love of shopping does not mean your home needs to be overflowing with stuff and dragging down your heart – or your children’s!

Depending on your family dynamic, an honest conversation will usually help turn things around because most people genuinely just want to bring joy. They are just sometimes a little off-base from what actually does bring you joy. πŸ˜‰ If honesty and direct conversations don’t help – well, that’s why donation drop-offs, shelters, etc. are such a wonderful option! You get to bring joy to others, and keep your own as well. <3

We happen to have families that respect our choices for our children, which definitely makes life easier. πŸ˜‰ When there have been situations, whether holidays or birthdays, when the kids were gifted excessive amounts, some things were discreetly set aside or passed on to someone else to love. Gifts can and should bring joy, if not to your child, then to someone else!

Thoughtfulness plays a role on both ends of giving. Ideally, the gift is thoughtfully given (and therefore respects your family lifestyle), but on the other hand, squashing someone else’s joy of giving isn’t the way to go either. Making wishlists, emphasizing your child’s love of certain activities or places, requesting “experience gifts,” rather than toys, or, if you’re dealing with hardcore givers πŸ˜‰ – simply but firmly reminding that you do not allow certain items in your home. Firm doesn’t mean unkind, but I absolutely believe that there are few things so unkind as dishonesty. Our loved ones want to give because they love us, they love our children. We oweΒ  it to our own hearts and our loved ones’ to be open about what brings us joy.

Let’s be honest, it’s fun giving to kids. It can be fun throwing parties! It can be fun baking their cakes and cookies, putting together surprises, and planning fun outings. The idea isn’t to suck the joy out of life with kids but to add joy by focusing on memories over packages and love over show.

In the end, what matters most to me is that their hearts are grateful for what is given in love and at peace in their own home.

How do you encourage gratitude in your family? Do you involve your kids in housework or assign chores? Do you try to minimize the wrapped-up gifts or go all out?

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10 Comments

  1. I love this! Gives me the courage to have “the talk” with some well-meaning family members. Talking about it as a family value will help!

    1. I hope it goes well – let me know!! Ive definitely found that letting people know it’s important to our hearts and not just some random “we don’t do presents” thing has made a big difference! xoxo

  2. I loved this post. We practice this as well. I have seen so many kids be selfish and expectant of a number of things. My children, like other children, have their moments. However, they are kind and generous to others. I think this is because of the way we teach them. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks again for reading, Jim! I have no doubt that children who raised with kindness and gratitude will learn to spread more of the same to everyone around them!! xo

  3. Great post!!! We try out best to practice minimalism we three littles it can be difficult for sure but feel like they are gaining so much more then if they had a cluster of things that they hardly play with cause they don’t even know what they have.

  4. Thank you for sharing! Something I am definitely struggling with as a parent right now finding that balance. My husband’s family are all big gift givers and I find it very overwhelming. Have had to have the “talk” a few times and have made quite a few donations haha

  5. Now that our daughter is a little older we have set chores for her and encourage her to help us when it’s safe to do so. I am also going to help her write thank you notes to the family and friends who are gifting her something for her birthday this year.
    We have been trying to encourage our family to gift experiences over things. They still want to give very generously (especially the family who lives far away) but they have gotten better about giving less things.
    We are moving towards a minimalist lifestyle and embracing a grateful attitude. Thanks for sharing!

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