How To Get Your Kids To Want To Give

For me, the first Christmas with a baby I felt like maybe we weren’t doing it right. So much of the holiday season is about family and tradition, but an infant has literally zero respect for any of your efforts. On that note, neither does a toddler.


We bought presents for him because that’s what you do, and we took him to see Santa, but the holiday still felt a little forced, I think.

The thing is, though, as our family has grown and aged, we’ve worn a soft spot into the routines of December, and now they are starting to feel like familiar motions that we all love and look forward to.

It’s not just putting up the tree while all the kids run around in Christmas jammies, hitting each other over the head with giant jingle bells. It’s beyond the 15 viewings of the old school Rudolph movie.


It’s knowing we will come together to celebrate and help others.

For Kendall’s 2nd Christmas (because were BROKE for his first one), we started picking a child from the local angel tree to buy gifts for. We added another child to our list for every baby we had as the family grew.

If I die tomorrow, it is my sincere wish that my kids simply grow up to love and do for others. I try so hard to model this for them. I have grand visions of them hosting their own coat drives and donating money from lemonade stands to kids with cancer.

So you may imagine how frustrating it was to take Kendall to buy gifts for our angel kids a few years ago, and witness his total tantrum meltdown in the aisles of Target because NO, those were NOT gifts for him.

But kids are born, selfish, right? That’s how they survive? Like a lot of things, charity and giving is something we learn, not always something we are born with.

“Mom, when is Jake going to come and tell us who to take cookies to?” Kendall asked yesterday.

Jake is our Elf On The Shelf. I am the boss of that elf, and a couple years ago I decided he was definitely not coming for an entire month, and he was simply going to assign random acts of kindness for the days he came. 

The first year we did this was the year Kendall lost his mind over buying and then giving toys to kids we don’t even know who definitely won’t be inviting him over to their house to play with them.

This year? He’s chomping at the bit and I need to get my shit together and get Jake out soon. He’s eager to take cookies to the police, to bring the bell ringers hot chocolate, and he was thrilled when I showed him what I picked out for the angel tree kids this year.

We always try to pick kids around the same age as ours, and we get them exactly what they ask for. The 7 year old wanted Star Wars LEGO sets. The 4 year old wanted an Imaginext Bat Cave. Done and done.

The only 2 year old tag on the tree that I could find didn’t ask for any toys or clothes, but for a convertible car seat. Oh man, I know how big of an expense that can be. It broke my heart that this was the request a parent made on behalf of their child, but I knew I could help them with it. So off it came and into my purse.

I messaged a picture of the tag to the wonderful people at Clek- makers of fabulously stylish, modern, and SAFE car seats. 

A week later, this beauty arrived at my door.


That’s not just any car seat. That’s a Special Edition Tokidoki Foonf. 

Leyna looked on with frustration. Why wasn’t that car seat for her?!

But instead of losing faith that my children will ever grow up to understand the joy of giving, I just acknowledged her frustration, and then reminded her why it wasn’t, knowing that maybe not next year or the year after that, but that some year she’ll get it. They all will.

And really, what kid (or adult!) wouldn’t want that car seat for themselves? 

Giving will become a familiar motion that feels like home and family, worn in that soft spot of December and year round, as long as we keep doing it.

Huge, MASSIVE thanks to Clek for helping me gift that little girl the coolest car seat in town.  And because Clek sent this to me at no charge, we were able to gift the 2 year old little girl a pink tricycle, too.

50 Things to Do Before You Deliver: The First Time Moms Pregnancy Guide
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  1. Chana Lightstone on

    That’s an awesome car seat, a great company and a moving story!

    In order to make the gift as perfect as it was meant to be, perhaps consider connecting the family to a certified car seat tech who can go over proper care, use & installation – to make sure the little one rides as safely as possible in the car.

    You can find someone local at

  2. Michelle Faught on

    This is amazing and totally inspiring! I have been dreading the day my son asks where our elf on the shelf is (he’s 3.5) and it just seemed like one more silly thing for us parents to run around doing. (around the crazyness of the holiday’s no less!) We have an elf but he had no interest in him this holiday season. Next year when I know he will be more intriqued. I’m definitely going to make him a “do good elf” to show my son compassion for others around us. Thanks Jill for being such a mama inspiration! Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family.

  3. As a family with more Clek’s than I like to admit, so glad to hear that they are as generous as their seats are awesome!

    I struggled with how to prepare my 3 year old for Christmas Day. In a moment of mommy brilliance, I told him that we were going to go to Nana and Grandpa’s and spend the whole day with our entire family. He was so excited at the prospect of spending the whole day with his cousins that the presents around the tree were a nice bonus.

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