The theme of our Christmas break has been gratitude. Not because my kids are so perfect and appreciative… no, it’s because I can see greed and entitlement creeping into their little hearts. I want to remove that like the cancer that it is. It’s our own fault. We’ve given them everything they have ever wanted. We take them on special trips, camping, baseball games, amusement parks… all things we wanted to do as kids but didn’t. My husband comes from a family who didn’t have the means to do special things when he was young and I see him reliving his childhood through our boys. He’s an amazing dad. I am so blessed that he would rather be with myself and our kids than anywhere else in this world. That being said, special has become normal to our children.
I started to notice it right after Thanksgiving. Our oldest son started making Christmas list after Christmas list. It just kept getting longer. He would sit on the computer and look for things to get. He obsessed about it. Talking about nothing other than Disney infinity characters and toys. I pointed it out several times, gently at first. Just letting him know he was over doing it a bit. Then I got a tad nasty… “Have you asked me what I wanted for Christmas? Have you put any thought into what you’d like to give?” He always softened, “I’m sorry mom. I’m just so excited!” I get that. Being a kid on Christmas is a phrase we use anytime we’re over the moon excited about something. There’s a reason for that. Still, I want gratitude oozing from these little hearts.
We always over do Christmas. Every year we say we’re going to keep it simple. We never do. This year was no different. The boys got a ping pong table, new running shoes, jersies from their favorite players. Scooters, and countless other gifts. Top that off with my parents buying them a Wii U (which I totally agreed to) and you have a recipe for greed.
It all came to a head on Christmas night. I won’t go into specifics but something happened that made it crystal clear that our kids, at least one of them, wasn’t able to handle a big Christmas. I reacted. We both did… we told them that from now on they’d only get four presents for Christmas. Period. Their years of BIG Christmases were over. They cried. Our oldest felt guilt, our youngest was counting on Santa to right the wrong we were clearly imposing on them. He sat, calm and collected… and asked “This four present thing… we telling Santa about that?” He had to know… a resounding “YES!!” came back to him… “Good to know Dad, good to know”
After a few minutes of yelling and anger, we sent them to their rooms. Then we looked at each other. After a few seconds John says “You know we completely over reacted right?”
Yep. We canceled Christmas for the rest of their lives. We found ourselves laughing at our impulsive punishment. We acted out of emotion, not out of reason. We devised a plan and headed upstairs. We didn’t tell them that Christmas wasn’t cancelled. We want them to stew on that for a while. What we did do was implement Gratitude journals into our homeschool routine. For all of us, well, at least the ones who can read and write.
Every day we will all sit down and write something we are thankful for. It can be something someone gave us or something someone did to serve us. Then once a week, we’ll read our journals to each other and talk about how the tiny acts of kindness made us feel. The hope is that they’ll see that the appreciation other people feel for the things they do is better than getting something for themselves. We want to foster an attitude of giving, serving and gratitude in our children. It’s not there naturally, for most kids at least. We’re selfish beings, we really are. We need Jesus on a daily basis to keep us thankful. It’s easy for an adult to be greedy, how much easier is it for a child?
Here’s to hoping a few spiral notebooks and a Friday pizza night family meeting will help develop a love of serving in our kids. So far they are enjoying writing in their books. They’re thankful for gifts they received, I’m hoping they’ll start to notice and be grateful for acts of kindness, not just gifts here soon enough.
So, that was the lesson we learned this Christmas, first for John and I, now our kiddos. There is such a fine line of wanting to give your children the childhood you want them to have and breeding entitlement in their young, impressionable hearts. We want the memories of big smiling faces on Christmas morning. Of camping and baseball games, special trips to special places, but when does it become too much. When they stop appreciating the things we do. When they stop thinking of ways to serve others and start thinking of ways for them to be served themselves. I think we caught it early. I’m sure their tender hearts can be softened and molded back into the servant leaders we’re trying to raise. Thank God there’s a learning curve for all of us and that we have the perfect example of Jesus Christ to follow. We don’t get it right 100% of the time but Jesus does. His grace covers our mistakes. These children are His, not mine. One day they have to live in our world and either be givers or takers. I am praying and striving to make them givers.
Thanks for listening and have a blessed day!