This year for Christmas, I intend to do something different and deprive my children. Don't get me wrong - they will eat to their little hearts' content and will sleep in cozy, warm beds with soft blankets and flame retardant PJs. They will, however, be deprived, disadvantaged, dispossessed, underprivileged and destitute when it comes to materialism, mall shopping, covetousness, and the greed that so frequently permeates the gift giving season.
There will be gifts - after all, I am no Grinch. Yet, they will not be so plentiful as to become an inundating avalanche that soon leaves the little ones bleary eyed as they tear wrapping after wrapping, scarcely noticing that which is given since they are already eyeing the next package as of yet unopened.
The Nuts And Bolts of Successful Christmas Deprivation
1. Depriving my children of the throws of materialism will require me to first remove the temptation.
Sneakily I have hidden - in the paper recycling can - the toy store catalogs that have arrived by mail; the newspaper inserts surreptitiously placed inside my Sunday paper have suffered a similar fate. Rather than indulging my offspring's faddish covetousness with this or that toy, I am asking each child to make a Christmas wish list containing 10 (count 'em) items - no more, no less. Thus, rather than ending up with 10 items junior copied down verbatim from the big box toy store catalog, I get a good idea of their fondest wish for a toy. Something they might have thought about all year.
2. Dispossessing my children of covetousness calls for me to replace it with something else - something like generosity.
Without the outside stimuli, you may be surprised to know that my kids have a hard time to fill up a list with 10 items. Fortunately I have a suggestion: let's add some toy or gift requests for friends and family members! While my golden haired child may not particularly care about the doll that wets herself when being given water to drink, her little friend might feel that this would be the greatest gift in the world! My children are encouraged to mark down these gift ideas as well. Granted, it requires a bit of prompting, such as "I wonder what your teacher would like for Christmas" or "does your friend ZYX still love ponies," but pretty soon the idea takes hold.
3. Ridding my children's hearts of greed requires me to set a good example.
Armed with a list that now contains 10 requests each for gifts to be given to my kids, their friends and teachers, and anyone else they could think of, we now plan how to accomplish these feats of generosity. Would you believe it that the requests they wrote down for themselves only numbered two and three respectively? The remainders were gift ideas for others! You will be surprised when you give your kids a chance for generosity - they are more openhanded than you give them credit for! Allowance funds are now being counted, certain chores receive monetary values, and some gifts may actually be home made! In short, instead of the mall free-for-all, we are now working together in the spirit of Christmas to give gifts from the heart to others.
Should I Deprive My Kids of Covetousness?
If you are not sure whether to deprive your children as well, ask yourself the following:
- Are you giving gifts out of an overflow of your heart or because you do not know how to say "no."
- Are you maxing out your credit cards and causing your already precariously stretched budget to go teetering down the hill of good intentions because you simply do not want to give your child the impression that you are not as rich as XYZ's parents who can afford a boatload of toys, or are you hiding your fear of saying "no;" after all, who wants a tantrum to ensue?
What's In It for Me?
Let's see, I now have children who free me to not only purchase something for them they really wanted (and have longed for) all year - instead of falling for the media and store hype for a newfangled toy they won't play with past News Year's Day - but who will be truly surprised and grateful for the little extra something I might pick up along the way.
I am no longer shackled to the big box store catalog's gift recommendations and outrageous prices for little pieces of plastic (possibly laden with lead) that are manufactured at a fraction of the cost being charged to me. Instead, I may pick and choose something I want my children to have.
No longer do I have to look on with internal embarrassment as my thus far glassy eyed children showed a severe lack of appreciation for the toys received. Instead, gratitude now permeates the gift giving event.
What's In It for My Child?
Deprivation of materialism and covetousness is good for the soul! Just think of these little points:
- The child truly appreciates that which she or he receives. (A great moment to train her or him in the somewhat lost art of giving thanks to the giver.)
- By not receiving everything she or he wanted (or thought they wanted) the child has a chance to experience true pleasure - if you have ever been on a diet and forced to give up chocolate then you remember the moment you were once again allowed to indulge in one piece felt like the heavens opening and a choir of angels descending - when a much requested toy is given.
- The sense of entitlement so ingrained in their little minds is beginning to diminish. Instead, the idea of doing chores, earning money, and thinking through how to obtain things begins to drown out the "I like it, I want it, It's mine" mentality.
Activities, such as baking cookies, putting together a little gift basket for the neighbor, making a craft to give to a friend, and decorating the wrapping paper for dad's gift suddenly take on much more importance than the mindless mall shopping trips.
- Christ is put back into Christmas - front and center!
About Sylvia Cochran
Sylvia Cochran - Christian Parenting Corner and Common Sense Parenting and Parenting By the Book Christian Parenting Book Reviews
Sylvia is a seasoned writer, born and raised in Germany. Having been exposed to a variety of religions and traditions due to travel and study, Sylvia has been a student of the Bible for more than ten years, and has for the last four years taught in small groups about Biblical principles, practical Christianity, Christian parenting, as well as the spiritual use of money. Sylvia also provides Free Online Courses at Suite 101. Sylvia's goal is to provide help and encouragement to raise the next generation of Christ-followers.
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