CLERGY CORNER: Give your kids and teens what they really want this Christmas

Posted on 14 December 2017 by LeslieM

In 2015, IKEA, the Swedish ready-to-assemble furniture and home furnishings retailer, asked “Why do we insist on not giving our children the gifts they really want for Christmas?”

To answer this question, IKEA created an experiment in which children from 10 different families were asked to write two separate letters: one to Santa Claus and the other to their parents.

As expected, to Santa Claus, kids requested everything from the latest tech to a unicorn. The other letter; however, the one to their parents, kids wrote, “I want you to spend more time with me”… “that we do more experiments at home”… “I’d like it [if] you paid a little bit more attention to us”… “have dinner with us more often.” Other children asked to be tickled more, have a story read to them, or simply spend the whole day together.

By the conclusion of the experiment, the parents discovered the best they could give their children is the giving of themselves, and this lesson is every bit applicable to those parents with teens — minus the tickling.

In light of the IKEA experiment results, consider the following gift ideas that honor God while creating a memorable Christmas for your children and teens:

Gift an experience. Whether it’s a family ski trip or simply watching Elf together for the billionth time, beginning a family tradition elevates presence over presents. Stuff eventually wears out, but a positive experience gets better with each time the story is told.

Gift items that speak your child’s or teen’s love language. If this is the first you have heard of “love languages,” schedule time to read Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively. Chapman writes, “Modern technology is exposing our teens to the best and worst of all human cultures.” As such, he believes there has never been a greater need for parents to “assume their role as loving leaders in the home.” Giving gifts that speak your child’s or teen’s love language is the most effective manner in which to refill a teen’s emotional “love tank.”

Gift a better story. Dr. Tim Elmore, in his book Habitudes for Communicators: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes, shares of a father “grieving” his daughter’s choices that did not align with “any of the family’s values.” The solution came when the father realized “everyone wants to be a part of a story that is interesting and compelling” — a life that is a part of the solution to a problem. The daughter eventually, on her own accord, chose to abandon her old lifestyle when “she found a better story at home.”

Gift without strings attached. Attaching emotional strings to giving is a hidden manifestation of control; it can morph into manipulation that increases the risk of damaging the relationship between the giver and receiver by establishing an unfair burden of reciprocity upon the receiver. Mindy Crary writes in Forbes, “Some people think they’ll disappoint their children if they don’t lavish them with gifts. But I’ve found that with kids [and teens], gift satisfaction is usually very short term. And even early on, [they] intuitively know whether the gift you are giving is for them, or for you.”

Gift worshipping together. Given the business of the holidays, from visiting friends and family to the excitement of unwrapping gifts, the temptation exists to “neglect meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25). In Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, Francis Chan writes, “It’s easy to fill ourselves up with other things and then give God whatever is left,” citing Hosea 13:6, “When I fed them, they were satisfied when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot Me.” Chan asserts that “God wants our best, deserves our best, and demands our best.” Avoid setting the dangerous precedent of offering God merely “leftovers.” Gift the example of putting God first.

While your child or teen may plead that they are not able to live without the new iPhone X (or a unicorn), give them what they really want: the present of your presence.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. He loves to mentor the next generation of leaders and considers himself a fast food connoisseur. For questions or comments, connect with him on social media: @thecjwetzler.

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