One of the most difficult elements of teaching children about kindness and gratitude is the part where you teach them about being kind for kindness' sake.
Especially for the little ones, when kids do something nice, they want the world to know. When my son gives his sister the last cookie, when my daughter helps a classmate tie a shoe or fix a ponytail, when my youngest lets our dog back in without me asking, they expect recognition.
They want their kindness sung from the mountain tops--for their teachers and parents and friends and God and Santa and all of the big guys to give them a pat on the back for it. They want the Special Plate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they expect more gems in their jars.
I knew I'd have opportunities this holiday season for my three kiddos to experience giving first-hand. We'd make gifts and present them to grandparents and aunts and uncles . We'd buy gifts for a needy family, wrap them, and send them away. We would spend one long day baking cookies and then give them to our neighbors. But I wanted to do something where my children wouldn't be personally recognized for their kindness-because being kind just to be kind is a difficult lesson.
So when Yahoo asked me to be a part of their Yahoo! How Good Grows: Ripples of Kindness program, I was elated. I knew immediately that my focus would be to do something nice that we wouldn't be recognized for, and I knew exactly who needed the help. I decided to spend the majority of Yahoo's $100 on a single mom of three, who just went through a messy divorce that left her literally scrounging for change and barely able to make ends meet. With no family in this country, this woman has it tough. I decided that I'd buy a gift card every week for the six weeks leading up to Christmas, and I'd just leave them in her mailbox.
And that's what we've done. I've purchased small gift cards to our two grocery stores, a local pharmacy, a toy store, a shoe store, and to a home store; I've delivered them, anonymously. My feeling was that anything could help her-so although this gift wasn't huge, the savings of $10 or $20 here and there would add up. My kids have been funny about it, initially wondering why we hadn't gone to the door or written a note, but now they're catching on. They ask if we're going to buy a gift card when we do errands, and they can think of something this family could use at almost every store we visit. They like the mystery, they like the 'secret' gift card drop on the way here or there or on a walk with our dog, and I'm hoping it sticks with them.
Holiday time is traditionally a 'gimme, gimme, gimme' time for little ones, but I'm crossing my fingers that modeling kindness and giving may help make my kids more aware of others and excited to help out-even if their help is not immediately recognized.
Our secret gift cards have far exceeded the $100 that Yahoo gave us, but I'm fine with that. It's opened up a door for giving to a family that I otherwise might not have considered, and for that I am grateful. Many, many thanks to Yahoo for this program, their generosity, and for the incredible site that actually allows people to see how their good grows.
You can find Amy over at teach mama, where she shares the ways she sneaks a little bit of learning into her childrens' day. She's also always hanging out at we teach, a forum she created for parents and teachers to share ideas, learn from each other, and grow as educators.