Just last night I sat with Christi while she wrapped Christmas gifts for the kids. Yes, she is ahead of the game a bit this year. I give her the credit because our kids would likely not receive anything if not for her. Man, I love that woman.
But don’t misunderstand me. She’ll be the first to tell you that she’s not a gift-buying, party-decorating, Christmas-cookie-making Jedi. Christmas time for Christi is quite exhausting. Parties, programs, and pressures abound during this time of the year. And let’s be honest, money doesn’t grow on trees either. Budgets are tight and stress runs high.
Fortunately, we don’t have to buy everything our kids ask for. In fact, there’s quite a dichotomy between what our kids ask for and what they really need.
As Christmas approaches, I want to leave you with five gifts our children need from us this Christmas. None of them cost a penny, but all of them are priceless.
1. Your time. Children spell love, T.I.M.E. If I had a dollar for every time my kids say, “Daddy, play with me,” we wouldn’t need to budget for Christmas. In all seriousness, whenever a parent tells me they have a child who is struggling, one of the first exercises I give them is implementing 20 minutes of command free time a day, one-on-one, with that child. In other words, you enter their world and play what they want to play. This Christmas break, take 20 minutes a day and enter your child’s world.
2. Your interest in them. The Bible says we are to raise our children in the way they should go, not the way we want them to go (Proverbs 22:6). Each of our children have unique gifts, strengths, and passions. Oftentimes, those passions come across to us parents as annoyances. Our son’s love for music and singing to the top of his lungs can be very overwhelming and annoying. Instead of being annoyed, we started to champion what he loves. This Christmas, he’s getting a keyboard (with headphones!), a new microphone, and piano lessons. (Don’t tell him.) Become a student of your kids and champion their hearts.
3. Your warmth. One major research study found that love and affection is the single greatest parenting strategy to get the outcomes we desire in our kids. Another study found warmth, especially from fathers, to be the single greatest factor for faith transmission from one generation to another. Yes, we need to set boundaries and discipline our kids, but as I write in Safe House, we must lead in grace and follow up in truth. Give your kids the benefit of the doubt this Christmas and nurture with warmth (Eph. 6:4).
4. Your patience. At 22:6 Parenting, we surveyed over 700 parents to find their greatest parenting struggles. The fourth greatest struggle was “losing patience.” Being pulled in what feels like a million directions leaves us feeling exhausted and pressed for time. Any time our stress levels are high, it’s much easier to react to our child’s accident of spilled milk as if he purposely tried to flood the kitchen. This Christmas, rather than react to your kids like a stressed out parent, respond like you would a stranger visiting your home.
5. Your apologies. Guess what? You will yell at your kids and likely say things you regret. You will react to your kids like a stressed out parent. Why? Because you’re human. So take the pressure off. As I describe in Safe House, if you can be an emotionally safe parent just 2 out of 5 times, you can still get the outcomes you desire for your kids. Talk about taking the pressure off! Why? Because “masters of relationships repair early and often.” When we apologize to our kids for how we specifically wronged them, what we do is model for them a) that we’re not perfect, b) we don’t expect them to be perfect and c) we model for them how to make it right when they’re not. Say “I’m sorry,” early and often.
From our family to yours,