The Best Gift You Could Give Your Child for Christmas

The economy has taken its toll on American families. Unemployment. Loss of medical insurance. Rising grocery costs and lower wages. Investments cascading in value. More moms than ever working. And with the fear of being downsized, you don’t dare miss work for your child’s play, soccer game, recital, or doctor’s appointments. Many teachers are reporting that more students are coming to school sick because their parents don’t dare miss work to stay home and care for them.                                                                        

In the midst of a challenging economy, what should our response be? As I wrote in a previous post, I believe that we can Grow Strong Kids In a Weak Economy and we can do it during the holidays: Christmas (or Hanukkah – for my readers who observe it).

You may not be able give your child want he wants, but you can give him what he needs.

After my presentation The Danger of Raising Nice Kids to a large group of parents in New York, a dad asked, “We have our kids in a top-notch, private religious school; they take music and art lessons; play sports and go to worship with us; isn’t that enough? What more do they need?”

“You are doing some good things, but not the GREAT things. Have you read the book Good To Great?”

“Yes, I read it on my commute on the train to the city.”

“To move from good to great with your kids, you have to give them things that last. You have to build to last with your kids. You want them to have substance and character that sticks. You have to commit to grow them from the inside out. What you are doing is good, but it’s not great. You have outsourced character formation to the school and the church. You and your kids are missing out on the greatest thing.”

His forehead wrinkled, “And what’s that?”

“Loving something with your heart, soul and strength. Being wholly passionate about something that is timeless and worthwhile.”

“Sounds like what Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord God with all of your heart, soul and mind and others as yourself.'”

“Jesus was paraphrasing the first prayer he learned – The Shema from Deuteronomy 6:5-9. ‘Love God, you God, with your whole heart; love him with all that’s in you, love with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and them get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are sitting at home or walking in the street, talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.’ Observant Jewish homes repeat this several times a day.”

“How does an old prayer make you a great parent?”

“You may not be able to give your kids much stuff this Christmas, but you can give them something that can’t be broken, returned, lost or goes out of style. You can give them faith, passion and peace. Faith in Someone who is stronger than a parent. A passion for something that lasts. And peace because the stories of God’s deliverance, provision, protection and love are embedded on their hearts. But it starts with you. Get those truths inside of you first, then they will spill over into your children. Let them see your faith in action. Consider helping a needy family this month. Let them see your passion by how you weave your faith into your Christmas celebration. Remind them that real value lies not in what we have, but who we are.”

“So if I can’t afford the big gifts, the activities, trips and clothes this year, I can still give them what they really need?”

“Yes, be passionate about your faith. Integrate your faith and values into an ongoing conversation with your children. Be intentional. Be consistent. Focus on the internals more than the externals, like grades, things and achievement. A child with a moral compass and a vital faith is more likely to avoid at-risk behavior, depression, substance abuse, and violence; and more likely to do better socially, academically and athletically. He is also more likely to be engaged in serving others, and not wrapped up in himself. Now isn’t that a great gift to give your child?”

May joy and peace fill your hearts at Christmas.

Timothy Smith   


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