This past year was an exciting year for us because my three, almost four year old daughter finally gets excited about the Holidays. The decorations, the food, the time with family, and the gifts. Oh the gifts. As we were watching a very Christmas episode of Handy Manny, my daughter learns from Manny that Christmas is not about getting gifts, but helping others. She looks at me confused and says, “I don’t want to help, I want to get gifts.”
This starts me on an adventure about learning how to give. We start with the appealing to empathy approach.
Me: “Don’t you like getting gifts? How do you think others feel getting gifts?”
Three year old that is convinced I’m insane: “I sometimes don’t want to help.”
So then we decide to take the three year old shopping at the local store so that we can donate to Toys For Tots. My husband and I let her carefully pick out the two toys she thinks OTHER kids will like, and explain to her that Santa isn’t always able to get to every kid, and this helps him out.
Three year old: “I think I should keep these gifts”
Me: “No, this is for someone else.”
Three year old starts to cry.
She cries all the way home from the Toys For Tots drop off donation.
I then get the brilliant idea to try to help some third world family through Heifer International. We look online and I let her pick out what she thinks a family would want. She is convinced the families want honeybees and a flock of geese. I explain how this will help the families and provide them with money so that they can buy things and food. She gets excited about the idea of the family getting bees that make honey. She then asks the following:
“Can I have some bees, so that I can have honey?”
Me: “No, we can buy honey at the store.”
Three year old: “Why can’t they go to the store and buy honey too?”
I just respond with a blank stare, and then patiently try to explain why not everyone can go to the store, as she then gets a glazed look over her face and asks if she can play with the ipad.
I just learned a new lesson. My kid still doesn’t understand the concept of giving, and it’s ok because she’s three. She’ll learn over time, by example. I just have to keep the example going, not just during the holidays, but all the time. I can’t force her to understand the concepts of poverty, and I guess I should be happy she is in the position to not have to understand poverty at this age. Right now all she knows is some family has an awesome collection of bees, and some other family has some cool geese to play with.