One Christmas morning when I was eight, I went into the living room where the presents surrounded the Christmas tree. My eye immediately caught sight of a robot! Yes, a robot, sparkling shiny and silver, just about my height. My mind raced a hundred miles an hour. Where was the control, so I could make it walk, talk and perform any task I desired?
About then I saw that my robot was wrapped in cellophane and that it had a cardboard box head and cardboard arms. “Unwrap it,” my Mom urged excitedly, but I didn’t want to “unwrap” it. I had a robot! Then she said, “Your present is underneath the wrapping!”
Little did she know how disappointing her words sounded to me. Then, as I inspected my robot I saw it. A snow sled. Mom had cleverly attached a box to look like a head, and cardboard arms to the sled handles, creating a robot-looking object. My imagination had done the rest. Before Mom’s eyes, my spirit deflated like a punctured balloon. I wanted a real, moving robot with an on-off switch, not a dumb sled. My face fell and I know my unhappiness made Mom unhappy. From then on, Mom made sure she did not do anything to raise my expectations beyond reality.
That Christmas morning I learned a painful lesson: you don’t always get what you want. It is a lesson all parents must teach their children. They cannot always have what they want, nor should they always get what they want. Too much of a good thing is no longer good. As Proverbs 25:16 says: “Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, lest you have it in excess and vomit it” (NASB).
Solomon makes clear what we all know: there is a real difference between what we need and what we want. And parents also know that giving to a child’s needs is a lot less complicated than trying to satisfy a child’s wants. While needs are not negotiable, wants are. However, kids are quite adept at negotiating their wants into needs every time! It can get complicated for parents.
I understand this struggle! Kids are outstanding negotiators which is why we need to be clear on what we believe about giving, or we can be too easily persuaded.
There are, of course, appropriate and reasonable times to give to your child’s wants. We give to show our love and spirit of generosity, especially at a time like Christmas. Giving in the purest sense – no strings attached – communicates unconditional love to our children, helping them discover their worth to us and God. As Jesus said about our heavenly Father: “look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV).
Are you feeling stressed this Christmas, trying to get everything on your child’s Christmas list? Are you struggling with how much is too much?
Perhaps the first question we need to ask is: “Why am I giving to my child’s wants? What is my purpose?” For example, am I giving in to my child because I believe it is unloving or unkind to say no? That will spoil them for sure.
At the end of the day we must do what seems best (Hebrews 12:10). I’ll share more about that next time.
Excerpts taken from
by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.