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Ask Dr. Mayim: How do I teach my kids gratefulness?

The holidays should be about giving—here's how I raise children that think of others
By Mayim Bialik     Published on 11/26/2018 at 11:55 AM EDT
Shutterstock; Dove Shore

Through Grok Nation, my YouTube channel and my social platforms, I get so many questions about a variety of topics: parenting, breastfeeding, veganism, Judaism, acting and more. That’s why I launched Ask Dr. Mayim, an advice column on Grok Nation where you can ask me questions about things going on in your life and I’ll give you my best, honest opinion.

I’ve tried to help a struggling newbie vegan, a mother at her wit’s end, and more (you can read all the past columns here). In this week’s Ask Dr. Mayim, I give my best advice for someone looking to spread gratitude during the holiday season. Read the question and my advice below; at the end, you’ll also find out how you can submit your own questions for Dr. Mayim!

Dear Dr. Mayim,

With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and holiday sales galore, it’s hard not to get caught up in the consumerism of the holidays—no matter your religion. I know that Giving Tuesday is a great way to give back, but I would like my family to get involved in helping others in more hands on ways. Aside from serving at a soup kitchen, what are a few things I can do with my children to teach them about generosity?

A Momma Trying to Teach Gratefulness

Dear Momma,

Happy season of thankfulness and consumerism! I get overwhelmed, too. And in this age of entitled children (two of whom are mine!), it’s hard to figure it all out.

For the holidays, we have made a decision to simply not go crazy with gifts. They get so many goodies year-round that my ex-husband and I decided years ago to not do toys for the holidays at all (since they get them for birthdays and—again—all year-round.) When I was a kid, Hanukkah meant new socks and pajamas and a calendar. And a new dreidel. That’s kind of what we stick to. My boys complain, but they know what I’m going to say: “There are children who don’t even have three square meals a day all year round much less whatever toys they ask for.”

RELATED: Fostering an attitude of gratitude in your children

Am I burdening my kids with the weight of the world? A little bit. But I also have seen its effects in their compassion and sense of self control surrounding consuming.

Throughout the year, we collect money to donate to tzedakah (charity) and I have found that making giving a year-round experience helps when it comes time for the holidays. Sometimes we will buy a homeless person a meal just because; we talk about how homeless people often struggle with mental illness, financial problems which our economy makes a challenge, and a variety of other things we should have compassion for.

We have found an organization called “Worthy of Love” that throws birthday parties for homeless children in Los Angeles, and we volunteer there; we are going this coming week, actually. We recently visited the Museum of the Holocaust and my older son decided he wants to meet more Holocaust survivors, so we signed him up to volunteer there next month. So there are things you can look for in your community to teach children that giving and being a person of graciousness and compassion is a way of life—not just something to do to combat the consumerism of the holidays.

Depending on the age of your kids, visiting shelters and senior citizens centers to donate items they need or even your time and a smiling face can be wonderful. (You can find places in your area by searching on I remind my boys that the world needs us to do acts of kindness in order to repair it. This spirit of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, is not a burden… it is a privilege.

Happy holidays and good luck!

Want to ask Dr. Mayim for advice? Email your question to, and she may answer it an upcoming column.

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