We’re parents. We know what this time of year brings. A lot of people asking for things, expecting things, and making lists for a jolly man in a red suit.
If you’re like me, you probably want this time of year to be one of giving, simple family traditions and generosity. (Right?) But what actually happens much of the time is kids just want more, and expect lots.
That’s what a study by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield shows. In fact, 64 percent of parents, they found, believe Santa traditions instill greed and selfishness in children. But only 27 percent of parents talk about giving more than getting. If they don’t talk about generosity, however, kids are likely to continue to just want for themselves. Generosity, in other words, doesn’t really happen naturally.
To illustrate this, Grenny and Maxfield made a video to show us just what’s happening.
So what to do about it? Maxfield, a social scientist and author, said parents need to talk about generosity — it doesn’t just happen. “Have them be involved in being generous where they actually take action,” he said. “Brainstorm with a young child as to what their siblings or daddy or mommy want for Christmas.”
In the video, children who are asked by Santa what they want then are given a choice between picking a large piece of chocolate for themselves and giving the small one to a friend, or choosing to give the big one to a friend and keeping the small one for themselves.
After Santa asked them what they wanted for Christmas, the majority of kids chose the big one for themselves.
But then Santa instead asked kids what they were giving for Christmas, and how that made them feel. The kids stumbled and were surprised by the question. But then when it came time to choose candy, the majority of them gave the big piece to their pal.
“When psychologists look at people being … selfish, it’s often not because they are bad,” he said. “It’s a moral slumber, not a moral defect.”
So to wake your kids up, you need to explain generosity. “They aren’t thinking about being generous. It hasn’t entered their head,” Maxfield said. “But as soon as it enters their head and becomes a viable option, they’re more likely to do it.”
Now. Who would like a piece of candy? I’m giving my biggest piece to you.
To see the entire video, click here.
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