Tweens and Thankful Attitudes

Holidays / Preteen / Spiritual Formation //

Tweens have attitude – sometimes that attitude is good and sometimes it isn’t so good.

With some tweens, that attitude (whether good or bad) is never on display more so than when they’re the recipient of a gift.

If they receive the latest skateboard or video games, the attitude is one of sincere thanks. Unfortunately if the gift is an ugly sweater adorned with an equally ugly squirrel, the good attitude changes to one of sullen rudeness.

November is the month of Thanksgiving …which fades into the month (for many kids) of greed. Watch a tween dive into the pile of presents on Christmas morning. Did he get everything on his list? Did Dad and Mom buy her that tablet even though they told her they didn’t have the money for it?

And no matter how much we emphasize the true meaning of Christmas, kids (and adults) can still get overly excited about what they’re GETTING!  Excitement can cause them to say things without thinking. Sometimes those spontaneous words are funny – but other times they’re harshly rude.

During December we celebrate the greatest gift ever given – that of God sending His Son to earth so that we can have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Christmas is also about showing God’s love to those around us.

Yet, we often teach our kids the joy of giving, but neglect to teach them the graciousness of receiving.

The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) includes characteristics that help us be good gift receivers – love (loving the other person and thinking about her feelings), joy (contentment), patience (with someone else’s choices), kindness (not making rude comments), etc.

No matter what the gift.

Teach your kids that whenever they open a gift, they need to express thankfulness. If the person is present, the child needs to look at the person and say a sincere thank you. Teach your child that even if they don’t like the gift, they can appreciate that the person took the time to purchase and wrap it and sincerely appreciate that.

If the person isn’t present, children need to immediately write thank-you notes. Some parents require that a thank-you note is written before the gift is utilized.

Prepare your children for awkward situations.

  1. A duplicate gift of something they already have.
  2. A gift they truly don’t like (the aforementioned ugly sweater).
  3. A gift that’s either too young for them or too old. (Your 12yo receives a preschool coloring book.)
  4. A gift that’s inappropriate. (You might not like your child having toys/apparel promoting a certain TV or cartoon character, but Aunt Jane doesn’t know that.)

Of course, the best thing we can do is model gracious receiving. We don’t like every gift we receive either and we sometimes receive duplicates of things we already have (and our kids are aware of that!). Our response goes a long way toward teaching our kids graciousness.

When everyone is gone, it’s ok for the tween (and the rest of the family, too) to giggle about the squirrel sweater, but don’t allow your children to say mean things about the giver herself. Instead, talk about the effort someone put into buying and wrapping the gift (and maybe in the case of the sweater, putting long hours into making it.) You could also talk about kids who don’t have warm clothes and would appreciate the sweater – squirrels and all. Is there a children’s shelter in town where you could donate some slightly worn clothes? Better yet, could you and your tween go to the shelter for the afternoon and play with the younger kids?


Be intentional about teaching your kids gracious receiving – and this year, have a thankful Christmas.





About the Author

Life is about my love for the Lord and teaching kids about His Word; about serving at Awana (20 years); about collecting counties (every county we visit is marked on a giant map) and grandkids (6) --- and writing about it all. My latest book is How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph (David C. Cook).