My three-year-old daughter can’t wait for Christmas. So as we prepare for Santa’s arrival, we are faced with the challenge of how best to introduce her to the magic of the season that goes far beyond her wish for a new princess bike.
But how do we teach the larger meaning of this festive time of year to a three-year-old girl who won’t even share her pretzels with her sister? As a marketer, I view this as a challenge in influencing perception. How can we best teach our young girls that the holiday season is about more than getting everything from their letters to Santa?
My parenting challenge reminded me of a past client engagement. Our client’s marketing department had a perception problem. The business units were often not aware of (or didn’t see value in) the types of support being offered. On top of that, the client had a messaging problem. Marketing was not reinforcing a consistent message. And the department was not marketing itself very well, so its value was misunderstood.
So what does this have to do with teaching my daughter about holiday spirit? Well, in the example above, we advised the client on how to change perception – starting with a short list of things they could do right away. The marketing department conducted road shows to raise awareness, initiated new messaging, and stopped doing things that the sales department did not value. They hired people with skills that were in demand. Thus began an evolution in the way that Sales began to perceive and value its Marketing partners.
In a similar vein, this year I set forth in search of just a few simple ways I could begin to influence my children’s perception of the holiday season before the stores beat me to it. My hope is that these family-centered activities will bring us closer to the true spirit of the season. I hope they’ll be more influential than the commercial advertisements and peer pressure that will bombard their young minds in years to come. Here’s what I’m doing:
- Collect at least one new holiday book every year (and read it together)
This year, I bought a gem of a book called Family Christmas Treasurers. I love the combination of old and new that is embodied in this classic, which resonates with old-fashioned, deep-down goodness. Through captivating artwork and excerpts from a broad sampling of well- and lesser-known holiday tales, this collection of treasures focuses on the monumental aspects of the season. Spending just a few minutes every day leafing through it brings us closer to the magic of the season.
- Listen to the Autobiography of Santa Claus
My little ones are a bit young to listen to (or read) this on their own, but I love retelling bits and pieces of this fascinating story. This clever combination of fantasy, folklore, and faith gives parents historical facts combined with legends so we’re prepared to answer questions like “Where did Santa come from?” His story begins in Lycia, where as a young boy, he wants to secretly give away money and gifts to the poor. And as the story unfolds, generosity is at its core.
- Find a way to connect with those in need
One of the ways that we’ve always given back this time of year is by adopting a child in need and making his or her holiday more special. This year, my daughter helped pick out a pretty dress and game for the 9-year-old girl we selected from the Angel Tree at church. Through the years, my hope is that both girls will understand the spirit of generosity by participating in these small gestures.
- Create a holiday photo book
I rarely leave home without a camera so that I can try to capture special moments to talk about later. Whether we’re picking out our tree or shopping for a gift for a special person in our lives, taking a photo helps reinforce the positive message behind the picture. My kids love looking through family photo books, and I love using them as tools to reinforce examples of kindness.
- Make age-appropriate accommodations so your child can share in traditions
The first time I baked cookies with my daughter, it was a disaster. Her little hands simply couldn’t manage the adult-size equipment, so she quickly lost interest while Mommy lost patience and took over. The next time, I planned ahead. I pre-measured the ingredients, put flour in small cups that she could manage, cracked eggs in advance and put them in small bowls. I gave her small spoons, mixers and bowls. We had fun and she was so proud of her results. Last month, I bought a toddler baking set along with Mommy and Me matching aprons. The baking tools are perfect for little hands and she loves seeing her name on the apron. She’s so proud of her creations, which we package up for special people in our lives.
Image courtesy Flickr user LadyDragonflyCC