How to Teach Your Kids Gratitude and Contentment at Christmas


If you’re not careful, you can focus so much on stuff during the Christmas season that you forget why we celebrate the holiday in the first place.

Regardless of your beliefs, this time of year offers a great opportunity to take a look around and be grateful for everything you have. In the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, you can stand out by simply choosing to be content—and by teaching your kids how to be content too.

You know how it usually works.

They’re going to want stuff. Lots of stuff. And they’re going to ask you for that stuff. They’re going to make lists for you and lists for Santa and lists for grandparents. The lists never end.

Don’t get me wrong—the lists are okay! But as an adult, you know how quickly the fun of that new stuff wears off. That’s why it’s important for you to help your kids understand what Christmas is really all about.

How do you do that?

I always emphasize that more is caught than taught. If your kids see you consumed by stuff throughout the holiday season, then that’s what they’re going to take away from Christmas.

But if you take time to stop and “smell the Christmas trees,” count your blessings, and focus on giving rather than receiving, then your kids will notice that too.

If you’re not careful, you can focus so much on stuff during the Christmas season that you forget why we celebrate the holiday in the first place.

One of my favorite Christmas memories was the time our family bought gifts for a single mom with three kids. She couldn’t afford to buy presents, so my parents took me and my siblings out and we found gifts for them.

Of course, I was just a kid, so when we went shopping I wanted a toy for myself. Mom saw it as a teaching moment, asking me to think about what I already had that I could be grateful for and explaining that this was an opportunity to give to someone else.

Little did I know at the time, but she was teaching me there is no room for discontentment in a heart filled with gratitude.

We knocked on the family’s door about a week before Christmas. The mom didn’t know what was going on. So when Dad explained we wanted to bless them that Christmas, she fell to her knees and cried.

The little kids saw all the gifts and their mouths dropped to the floor. Dad simply told them to have a merry Christmas, and we walked back to the car.

It was an experience I’ll never forget—and it had nothing to do with a gift that was given to me. It was all about giving to someone else.

There is no room for discontentment in a heart filled with gratitude!

This Christmas, I hope you’ll teach your kids the power of gratitude and contentment. While you’re thinking about all the gifts you want to give them, make sure you take some time to show them how giving to others matters too. You can do this in lots of ways, but I thought I’d share three simple ideas with you:

  1. Volunteer as a family. You might sing carols at a nursing home or bring gifts for a child in the hospital. You could also reach out to a local organization that cares for people in need and ask how you can help. Talk to your kids about the why behind what you’re doing before and after you go. That will make for some memorable and rewarding conversations!
  2. Have your kids buy gifts for each other. Sneak some cash to the younger ones and ask older kids to draw from their own commission money or paycheck. Take each child to the store individually, helping them to make thoughtful choices and building excitement for the secret gift. Let your kids do the wrapping, and get ready to watch the joy of giving light up their faces on Christmas morning.
  3. For every gift your kids receive, have them give something away. Tell your kids in advance—no tears on Christmas morning!—that this year you want to bless others just like you have been blessed. Explain that your family will be donating gently used items after the holidays. If needed, give your kids a little nudge. They’re bound to have books or toys lying around untouched that could mean the world to someone else.

Contentment and gratitude truly are two of the best gifts you can give your kids this Christmas. And if you want to keep setting them up for success all year round, check out my book Smart Money Smart Kids. It’ll show you how to help your kids win with money now and in the future!