Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: Our son’s fifth birthday is next week. This year, I would like to have our son donate at least half of his presents to a charitable organization. My husband thinks our son is too young to appreciate charitable giving so we should instead just hide some of the presents and then donate them ourselves.
I agree this will be difficult for our son; I expect tears and resistance. Should I push the issue?
When to Push Your Child
I don’t think it’s right to force anyone to donate their gifts, much less a 5-year-old.
I think it’s much better to unlink the charitable giving from the yanking away of gifts.
Teaching your son to find joy in giving is the easier part, obviously. First, make sure you include him in gift-giving — to each other, his friends, relatives. If he flips out in the store because it’s not all for him, then back off until he’s a half-year older. Second, get him involved in charitable giving — be it volunteering time, donating outgrown clothes and toys, doing a walk-a-thon, earmarking part of his allowance when he starts getting one, etc.
The other half of the equation is to reduce the gift glut. For his birthday party, you can:
• Institute a grab bag, where everyone brings a small gift (set a dollar limit) and everyone takes one home. Bonus: It wipes out the goody-bag nuisance.
• Specify “no gifts” and make the party itself your gift to your son. • Skip the party and just invite one to three of his favorite people to one of his favorite places.