One of my favorite things about Tiny is her beautiful, giving heart. She is empathetic (unless it is with her brother and he has her tablet in hand – then she’s brutal) and loving, and makes me so proud. With that in mind, no child is immune to “gimme-itis” at Christmas. This year, as she is getting older, and frankly, I’m pretty sure she has wised up about Santa tough she refuses to ask me about it, it is time to cement the giving spirit of the holiday.
I told one of my friends about my advent plans and he remarked that this is “intentional parenting,” which got me to thinking. What can I do to ensure that she is developing the character traits that I want her to cling to as an adult? Model them, of course.
This year for Advent, a season of giving and grace by nature, we are going to focus no on toys or gifts. We are not going to focus on Elves, wrapping paper, or candy. This year, I am going to carve out a little time from our day to make sure that both Teeny and Tiny are consciously and intentionally doing something with another person in mind, and without seeking credit for their good deed. Sure, we’ll have Pinocchio and Sprinkles (Tiny and Teeny’s elves), cookies and wrapping of gifts, but we are going to make giving the focus this year, not giving.
Our advent calendar this year is a homemade set of envelopes that I purchased from our local craft store. Inside each pouch, I am going to put two tiny chocolates that they will get when we discuss how they accomplished their task each day. And I am going to do each task along with them.
When they donate items, I will donate items. If I have asked them to compliment someone they don’t like, I am going to do the same. The need to see me making the same gestures and sacrifices that they are being asked to make if the focus is truly going to shift this year. Don’t get me wrong, they are 10 and 3 – I don’t expect them to turn into tiny saints and forego all gifts this year – far from it – I tend to go more overboard on Christmas spirit than they do. What matters is that they are intentionally going to make conscious decisions to do something kind each day as we get closer to Christmas. I want to cultivate a servant’s heart in each of them. There is no better way to do that than to be of service to others along with them.
I have included the tasks that I am going to use in my resource library. Subscribe to my mailing list and get the password – exclusively for subscribers! This free download is formatted for 30 count address label printables, but you could also print on paper and place inside of your envelope.
To make my Advent service calendar, I simply used red and white baker’s twine to suspend each envelope from a string.
I have placed an address label sized task on the back of each envelope so that I can use them again next year.
Inside of each pouch is a tiny chocolate bear or Santa (I got mine from Aldi) for each of them.
The key to this activity is the follow through in the evenings. At dinner, I want to know how each of them made a conscious effort to work together and accomplish their task. Believe me, I want a concrete example. I will also share mine with them.
As the days between December 1st and Christmas approach, I hope that they will begin to look forward to their task each day – some are more fun than others! I am excited to see how their tiny hearts will be blessed as they bless others!
What do you do to intentionally cultivate a spirit of service in your children?
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I think setting the example is your best tactic here. Hope this is a fruitful exercise for you and your kids.
Hi. Thanks. Yes, they will respond better if I engage in service along with them. I hope they enjoy their daily challenges!
Great idea. There are so many material things that catch our children’s eyes especially this time of year. I think what you are doing is an excellent idea. I especially like that the children will see you doing the same thing! I am a grandma to 4, soon to be 5, and we spend Christmas together every year in Florida at the beach (a tradition we have done since our children were little), We rent a beach house and just enjoy being together for a week. I have wanted to do something fruitful with my grandkids during this time. Thought about writing a devotion for our reading in the evening together. Maybe this is something we can incorporate into our family gathering. Thanks for a great idea!
Hi, if you decide to do it, I would love to know how it goes with them. Christmas at the beach sounds amazing. I hope it is a wonderful season for you and your family.
I love how you’re setting the example of service. I am doing the same thing with my daughter this year, she’s 22. Believe it or not, this is the first year I’ve heard of advent outside of an advent calendar and I’m excited to participate. Best wishes to you, Teeny & Tiny as you serve others.
Thank you. I love that you are still bonding with her even though she is grown and still setting an example for her. I hope to have that with Tiny when she is older as well.
I love your “intentional parenting”!! As you said, it is easy to get all wrapped into the hype of Christmas, people easily forget what it is about. I remember as young child my grandma would have me help her wrap bags with chocolates that we would then take to the public hospital in Guatemala. In a childhood filled with so much pain, that was a bright spot for me. It instilled in me a heart of generosity. It just shows that even in circumstances where love is lacking like my situation, intentionality in little things like this can leave such a powerful mark. Great job Mom!!!
You just made my day. I want Tiny to understand that you don’t have to have money to give and be generous. Sometimes giving of self is the most precious gift you can give.
Really inspiring ideas here! Intentional parenting will lead your children to intentional kindness, and the more they practice, the more it will come naturally (like any “habit” does). I have teenagers… and I’ve been trying to change my line of questioning at Christmas away from “What do you want for Christmas?” and towards “How would like to spend time together this Christmas?” Just a little change to redirect the message of the season from one of receiving gifts to one of spending time with those you love, while celebrating the birth of the one who loved us first.
I hope so. It is so hard to turn their focus from self to others, but they will remember the message when they are adults. I love that you are asking about time with yours. I let mine give me a list, but only 5 items (something to wear, read, you want, you need, and 1 really special item). They get other things simply because I just can’t help myself, but I choose.
I like your approach to giving this year, Carlise.
You asked what we do to cultivate a spirit of service in our children? I have always emphasised the concept of sharing what we have with my son. He’s becoming quite good at it.
I love it. I work a lot in the Caribbean and it always reminds me that we don’t have to have wealth to share what we do have. In our current world, it is critical that we intentionally pass this lesson on to our children.
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