It’s wonderful (and a good thing) to see the new emphasis on “giving over receiving” at Christmas time. It’s become a trend this year with so many families because as parents we want to teach kids about generosity.
Moms and dads everywhere are using Christmas as an opportunity to get their kids thinking about serving others and giving to the less fortunate, rather than encouraging them to create monstrous Christmas lists describing all the things they want this season.
Some parents are even “cancelling" Christmas for their kids, not giving any family members any gifts.
But do we really need to cancel Christmas in order to foster a spirit of generosity in our kids?
Wednesday I joined Lisa Henderson on “Fox & Friends” to debate this very question.
Lisa has “cancelled Christmas” in her Utah home because, she says, her kids have become too entitled, “acting so ungrateful” and “extremely disrespectful.”
So there will be no presents for Christmas, but, as she writes on her blog Overthebigmooon.com, “There is a good possibility that Santa will be writing them a letter of how proud of them he is and perhaps put a few pieces of hard candy and an orange in their stockings.”
While I have great respect for what Lisa wants to accomplish, I disagree with her approach. Christmas should begin, not end, at home.
We are already under immense pressure to purge Christmas from our culture. First nativity scenes in public places were under attack, now it’s Christmas trees. Even saying “Merry Christmas” has taken a back seat to “Happy Holidays.”
Cancelling Christmas and using letters from Santa to motivate our kids to be generous is not the answer. The answer is in putting the emphasis on the miracle not the material.
And here’s the good news. Even our gift giving can point to the miracle.
So, yes, we give a few gifts to our kids. But we also give many gifts to the less fortunate.
For example, we’ve taught our own kids that the gifts we give them at Christmas aren’t based on whether they’ve been bad or good all year. The gifts we give them are free, unearned, underserved gifts, just like the gift of Jesus is a free, unearned, and underserved gift. This is a very tangible, concrete concept for kids to grasp.
And when we serve and give to others, we teach our kids what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you do for the least of your brothers and sisters, you do for me.”
So we give gifts to Jesus on his “birthday” by serving and loving and giving to others!
This is how parents can infuse real meaning into Christmas -- not by refusing to celebrate it all together.
Cancelling Christmas is simply not the key to fostering generosity in our kids. The key to fostering generosity in our kids is by making giving something we do all year round. By making it a lifestyle.
And a lifestyle of giving springs from a deep well of gratitude for how Jesus first gave his life for us.
We have to be so careful not to teach our kids that Christmas is about doing more, trying harder, and being better to be worthy of gifts.
Christmas is about anticipating and celebrating the greatest gift that has already been given -- the unconditional love of God in the birth of Jesus Christ.
Our focus shouldn’t be on whether or not we have a tree overflowing with gifts, but on whether we have a home overflowing with love. His love.
And if that’s our starting place, we have a pretty good shot at getting Christmas, and all the 364 other days of the year, right.
Jeannie Cunnion is the author of "Parenting the Wholehearted Child," and a blogger at www.jeanniecunnion.com. She has a Master's degree in Social Work, and her background combines counseling, writing, and speaking about parenting and adoption issues. Jeannie and her husband, Mike, are the proud parents of four wild and awesome boys.