The classic “I Owe You” coupon has been around forever – I remember making them in primary school for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Although classic, when it comes to holiday gift giving, handing out a coupon to everyone you know, may not be the classiest thing to do! However, I really think that instituting an “I Owe You” only gift giving policy between your children and among the immediate family unit is a fabulous way to teach our children a myriad of valuable lessons.
First, the “I Owe You” concept forces each member to consider and reflect upon all the talents and ‘services’ he or she has to offer. Think about how good it feels to realize that you are really good at something and that you can offer that talent to help others – for kids, I think this good feeling is twice as rewarding! Self esteem is so important and having the opportunity to give the gift of a talent will help build self esteem and confidence.
Second, the giving of talents or services teaches children (and grownups, too) the power of service. IN a family, loving each other is paramount and supporting and helping one another is often what love looks like in a family. Helping each other with our talents and services can strengthen the bonds between siblings and parents and this is a priceless reward in itself.
Third, during the holidays when everyone is thinking of what they want, you and your children will be forced to think of the receiver of your gift. In order to make “I Owe You” successful, time has to be spent getting to know the receiver. What do they need? What are their likes and dislikes? The time spent planning the gift is even bigger than the gift – it says “I really know who you are as a person, because of this I want to give of myself to show how much I appreciate you.” For example, my grandmother loves roses. She is getting to frail to keep up her rose garden anymore. I am giving her the gift of my time every two weeks to prune and care for her roses. The gift of a little of my time, will be the grandest in her heart.
Finally, when the list of people to buy for gets bigger and bigger and holiday shopping looms over the family budget, the “I Owe You” system can really save some money and that is always a perk!
If this is something your family decides to try, be sure to set out some ground rules concerning what kind of services or ‘coupon’ items are acceptable. If you want to try to really focus in on each member, consider picking names out of a hat and that way, each member can put more effort and energy into the gift instead of lots of little coupons. Get creative! Check out this site for free printable coupons http://parenting.leehansen.com/Printables/Coupons/. Kodak Gallery has a project for photo coupons as well – http://www.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jhtml?pq-path=38/13916/10804/12527&pq-locale=en_US
Here are some of my favorite ideas for coupons –
1. Young children can give an adult family member a lunch date. Let them earn allowance to pay for the meal, they will love being able to pick up the check.
2. Parents can plan a trip to a bookstore, toy store, or children’s clothes store – where the child can buy anything they want within the amount on the gift certificate.
3. Parent to friends can offer babysitting, so the recipient can take a night or day off. You might even couple this with a manicure gift certificate.
4. If you are a great cook, no one will turn down a coupon to get a homemade meal or dessert of their choosing.
5. For those who are great with their hands, offering someone lessons in the craft are priceless. I am a knitter and having an experienced knitter offer lessons as a gift would be incredible.
6. Offer a teenager a coupon for a trip with their friends to the movies, amusement park, mall etc. and see if they don’t jump up and down.
7. I love the idea of giving a coupon for a family outing – like camping, hiking, visiting a park etc. Choose something that is of interest to the family, you can add some spark with the promise of their favorite interest – horseback riding, canoeing, taking photos, etc.
8. Husband to a wife, a full weekend of babysitting for the children. Freeing up the wife to do whatever she would like with her free time.