How Many Christmas Presents?
- Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Kids are already (or soon will be) plotting their Christmas lists, whether the benefactor is Santa, parents, or a generous Grandma. Children are not alone in this quest – the media has been implementing well-researched goals and strategies to support kids in this noble endeavor of getting lots of cool stuff for Christmas.
Between now and December 24th, the average American child will view approximately 4,800 commercials! Does this affect their perception of what they just gotta have for Christmas? Absolutely. Research shows that when parents denied children’s requests for products, children who were heavy TV viewers argued about the purchase more than twice as much as light viewers! Whew, another good reason to “tame the tube” in our homes this holiday season!
But that’s just a small aspect of what it takes to move our children toward solid, non-materialistic values in life. What’s needed is a proactive vision on the part of the parents about how possessions serve their big picture vision about family. If there is no vision, instead of owning our possessions, they may “own” our family.
Thoughtful vision about possessions was demonstrated by a delightful family we spent time with last night. The parents were brimming with passion to raise a family that would walk a different journey than the unhealthy patterns and relational pain that they had both experienced growing up. They were searching for wisdom, looking for role models, and being strategic about how they parented. The mom shared how she and her husband had talked over their vision for their family at the holidays.
They determined that they would stop the materialism madness by giving each child in their family three gifts for Christmas. “If three gifts were enough for the newborn King of Kings, three gifts are enough for each of our children.” At the holiday season they focus not on gifts but on relational joys of connecting with the people most important to them.
When our children were younger, and more inclined to ask for stuff at Christmas, we put thought and prayer into what we bought. We developed a “vision statement” about gifts that was basically: “We will set a modest budget for gifts for each child. Each gift will be thoughtfully selected to support real-life interests that we see emerging, and develop skills that could be used for God’s purposes at some point. We will never give them anything that supports harmful values or habits.”
Our children never received any media device or electronic game for Christmas. Books, musical instruments, art supplies, cameras, athletic equipment, cognitively challenging board games, handmade items, coupons for adventures with mom or dad, etc. were among the selections over the years. . If there was any pre-Christmas lobbying for presents, we re-explained our vision, why it was so important to us and evaluated the requests accordingly. Ephesians 2:10 was a foundational verse in our family: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We were passionate about walking in the good things he was preparing each of us to do. By Christmas our children knew not to expect the latest, greatest or shiniest contraption advertised, and they gratefully enjoyed their creative presents.
Is this the “right” vision for your family? Maybe, but not necessarily. What’s important is that you have a vision that flows out of what you truly believe is central to the fabric of your family!
One mom who highly values thoughtfulness and good literature considers her children’s unique and developing interests and includes 3 books for each child as part of their Christmas presents. Her oldest child is now in a book club with her.
So this holiday season, consider the question – What are the most important values in your family? How might gift giving wisely support those values instead of possibly feeding materialism in your family?
We invite you to share your thoughts, ideas, and your own visions for gift giving at Christmas. Let’s learn from each other!
This article was originally posted on ConnectedFamilies.org. The mission of Connected Families is “To equip parents with practical tools and profound insights.”
Jim and Lynne Jackson, founders of Connected Families and co-authors of How to Grow a Connected Family, have nearly forty years combined professional experience working with children, teens, and families.
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