Thinking back over Christmases Past have you ever felt like you’re juggling Christmas chaos, traditions and decorations and invitations – and your children’s behaviour! In the middle of all that chaos going on you just wish your kids had a different attitude and be making different choices. Today I’m sharing 3 character traits that could totally spoil your christmas vibes if you aren’t careful. The reason why I’m talking about these 3 character traits is so you can identify the biggest one for your family and start addressing it now – a few weeks before Christmas. Listen in…. 3 Character Issues you don’t want to spoil your Christmas
3 Character Issues you Don’t Want to Spoil Your Christmas
We’ve been talking about Christmas for over a month now – and this is my last podcast on this topic for this year! I appreciate the emails I get from you as you listen, and put into practice some of the things that I am talking about. The constant thread in what parents say to me at this time of the year – is the challenge to find that balance between keeping our kids eyes on Jesus and having a good family memory making time.
One of the things that I found helpful when my children were young was to sit back, at the beginning of it all, and reflect on my family, or reflect on each of the kids; reflect on their heart (where they were up to) and prayerfully consider what areas of character or habit I could address that will make this busy season more pleasant for everyone and helpful for the child.
Over the years we dealt with issues like:
- Orderliness in making room for the gifts we knew they were going to receive
- Love in enjoying the other persons joy in receiving a gift more than ripping through our own gifts
- Generosity in planning to give gifts to siblings and those in the community
- Gratefulness in learning to say thank you properly
- Compassion in giving our time, or resources to those in need
- Patience in waiting for the right time to open presents and eat food
These are character issues – character being the consistent actions we take that reflect our values. Most of the things we want to teach our children come down to understanding what values we want to live by. If we want our children to be loving, kind, generous, patient, grateful and compassionate at Christmas time – then we have to teach them to understand what those values look like in action; we have to teach them how to make choices to live that way.
Christmas Character Traits
Today I’d like to share three heart issues that can affect adults, teens, and children alike at Christmas time. The benefit of thinking about these things now, is you have time to teach your children the why, what, and how of living with these specific character qualities on Christmas day and beyond.
My daughter Jess and I talked about this list before I recorded this podcast. She tried to guess which 3 character traits I had chosen as pivotal for Christmas. And really – any character-based response could be a focus for your family. I chose these three because they are over-arching heart responses to things that generally challenge our choices and values because of all that happens at Christmas time. But you know your family, and you need to choose to address the issues that your family is struggling with. My list of 3 might help you, or you may have to choose something different altogether.
Gluttony and Self-control
Gluttony is a word we don’t use very often, it is not something we are even that comfortable talking about. In its simple form, gluttony is about excess. Usually excessive eating and/or drinking, but it could mean excessive stuff as well. Excessive is the key word here – more than we need, above and beyond.
How easy that is at this time with Christmas treats all around us. We need to have the discernment to know when to stop and we need to have the self-control to stop.
A few things I said to my kids when it came to food
“Are you going back for more because you are hungry or because it is nice?”
I’m not against them going back for seconds simply because the food is delicious but I wanted them to know the difference and to think about what they were doing.
And secondly, when you go back for seconds consider other people who may also want some more. Either offer to serve others, or only take a portion of what is left in the pot so there are seconds for others.
We have to intentionally put these thoughts into children’s minds and hearts. Gluttony so often becomes self-absorption – when we lack self-control we also lack an awareness of others.
Two verses we can use in our instruction if we have to address gluttony:
Philippians 3:19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with mindset on earthly things.
Proverbs 25:16 If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.
(Kids seem to chuckle over this verse – for some reason it seems funny to them that God talks about being so stuffed you vomit!!)
When we are so focused on food, on satisfying our immediate senses, then we do have our mind on earthly things – and in particular me and my wants. Gluttony is certainly an issue of selfishness. The Bible though tells us how to address this – eat only enough.
Discontent and Thankfulness
Discontent is not being happy with what we have, always looking over the fence and wishing for more, for different, for better. Discontent is a real slap in the face for God – He is our provider and our discontent is a grumble against Him.
The commercialism of Christmas is a real challenge to a grateful and content heart. When we see the attitude of discontent starting to brew we need to nip it in the bud straight away. One thing I talked to my kids about when they started to look longingly at catalogues and TV commercials is – (and this is what I used to say to them) You are getting an attack of the wants. And I would get them to walk away from the temptation. I’m okay with window shopping and even being able to indicate things that you like, but as soon as your heart wants it and you start focusing on it, that is not a good place to be.
When my kids were young we didn’t have wish lists for Christmas. To my mind that made them think on what they might receive, and that would then open them up to disappointment and ungratefulness when they didn’t get what was on their list. But our extended family were always asking for ideas. So instead, we wrote an Ideas list that helped others know what their interests and planned projects were.
Some Bible verses to help your kids remember to be thankful and to have the perspective that we give and receive gifts because Jesus was a gift to humanity.
Psalm 107:1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!
Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So encourage thankfulness, and gratefulness as a character trait in your heart, and in your kids’ hearts leading up to Christmas.
Laziness and Responsibility
Laziness is an easy attitude to fall into during holiday times. Holidays are a break from the normal pressures of life but the reality is some things still need to be done. Laziness comes from an attitude that says other people owe me and I don’t have to. Family life is built on the premise that we are here to help each other. So we can’t be helpful or responsible and lazy at the same time – they are opposing attitudes!
2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
Proverbs 18:9 Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.
There needs to be clear expectations of what chores need to be done over family rest and celebration times, and there needs to be consequences for those who don’t pull their weight. Laziness is another issue of selfishness – a focus on my need for rest and what other people should be doing for me.
Based on that Proverb we can teach our children that they are destroying family fun or family time, that their actions affect others. Life isn’t all about them and neither is Christmas time.
So my advice is – don’t let chore time stop just because it is Christmas day – chores are how we show we are responsible with our stuff – but they also are a way to love and be a blessing to others who live in our home.
So don’t let laziness be something you slip into or you let your children slip into – instead, encourage responsibility.
Christian Family Values
Christmas time can easily become a time of entitlement and expectations. As parents, we can turn a blind eye and excuse poor choices because of it being Christmas or we can use the context of Christmas to continue to teach our children how to love God and how to love others by making wise choices.
Another verse that was always with me at Christmas time was – and is still today –
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. Colossians 3:23
This is really a life verse, that I am reminding myself of at Christmas time. I want everything that happens in my home done as worship unto the Lord… how we celebrate, how we build family memories, how we interact with other people, how we share the blessings God has given us, how we make people feel special, how we look after those in need, how I prepare my house and my table, how we do everything….because the Lord has been good to me!
Heart-focused Parenting Action Step
As you listen to these ideas of different responses your kids may make on Christmas Day or in the weeks before and after Christmas – I want you to think about how you are going to respond.
I say this a lot – I think I even said it last week – but parenting is about how we respond. We can teach, encourage, and help our kids do the right thing; we can forgive, and offer do-overs. But the key is in how we do that.
Will I be cranky that MY Christmas has been interrupted or spoilt by my kids choices. (and to be honest, that is in itself an entitled reaction).
Will I depend on Jesus, to give me the Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, & Self-Control that I need in this parenting moment?
When we elevate Christmas Day, and the events we have on as the epitome of happiness we will get cranky. Our kids will disrupt our expectations. Our kids will have meltdowns, they will be rude, selfish, and lazy. How will you respond?
2 things you can do right now:
- Start talking about what character traits you want to see happen in your family this Christmas. I’d recommend that you focus on one – it takes time to get information from our head to our hearts to our hands – so don’t just give information make it real and happening in your kids lives. Talk about what that trait looks like in action and why it is important. Help your children become familiar with the idea of that character based choice. Use the words of character, for example – specifically talk about self-control, thankfulness or responsibility – and how they can make choices to act that way.
- Be honest with yourself about what you are planning every day between now and the end of the year. Are you over extending yourself and your kids? Are your plans pushing everyone beyond their ability to respond well? And I ask you to re consider your plans.
Remember Christmas is simply a celebration where we have the opportunity to rejoice in God’s plan for mankind, to be thankful for God’s faithfulness. It is an opportunity to be with family and loved ones. It is an opportunity to show love to your neighbour. And of course – if we are so distracted and busy we don’t have that love – all the activity we get involved in and make happen – is just a noisy gong, clanging away making busy noise.
So as we head to Christmas and the end of the year I’m going to encourage you to be intentional, relational and heart-focused. If you’ve been around here for a while you’ll be very familiar with me saying those three things –
Be intentional – take the time to think about what you want and how you are going to do it.
Be relational – remember that your kids are people, and the influence you have in your child’s life will be based on the relationship you have – and any relationship you have will be based on the respect you show your kids respect because they are made in the image of God and He loves them.
And thirdly – be heart-focused – that is, make sure you address the things that your kids believe, value, think, feel and choose. Every choice they make (it comes out as behaviour, but it starts as a choice) – will come from something in their heart – and you have the opportunity to help them believe, value, think, feel and choose that which will honor and glorify God.
parenting takes heart-work
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