Christmas. Full of romanticized ideals of what the world is, or should be. We are celebrating the birth of hope, of grace, and our forever King. We are trying to find our proverbial Bing Crosby Christmas, but it’s buried alive under mounds of defective string lights, years of disappointment, and the weight of our gritty reality: life is not as perfect as the cover of a 1955 Christmas album.
So what do you do when you have shopped, wrapped, prepped, cooked, baked, glittered and prayed your way through the season, and your tween or teen seems to have been born the love child of the Grinch and Paris Hilton? All kids can act grumpy or spoiled at times, but what do you do when your kid’s self-centered behavior is stealing your Christmas joy?
If your kid is bah-humbugging the Christmas festivities, or behaving as if the entire holiday is about getting them all that their grinchy heart desires, then you need a ghost of Christmas-blog to help you. Here are some steps to rekindling the Christmas spirit with a scroogy tween or teen:
1. Identify the problem: a) Is your kid just having a bad year due to recent loss or struggles, or b) is he/she typically ungrateful and spoiled and it gets worse at Christmas? If it’s “b” then keep reading.
2. Look in the mirror: Do you, in general, act selfish or spoiled? Or are you a super-giver who gives your child too much and they have learned to expect more than they deserve, and has yet to learn the joy of giving firsthand? If you are giving too much, and have lost your Christmas focus, it is never to late to scale back and change your ways.
3. Talk about the purpose of Christmas: If all you talk about around the holidays is the awful traffic, the rude shoppers, the stuff you have to buy, or how your in-laws drive you crazy, don’t be surprised if your kid translates that into thinking the holidays are about us and our wants (therefore about them and their wants).
Check out Pinterest
for advent calendars that give you a verse to read each day with your family. Start early in the season talking about the promise of Christ and the hope He brought to each of us. Show your belief in this by acting like a Christian, even in the line at Walmart.
4. Have age appropriate expectations: When your children were young (under 7 or so depending on the child) it was appropriate for you to use your money to buy gifts and to give your kid “credit” for it. However, they are never too young to make a gift, a card, or a video to show their kindness towards others.
As our children get older, if they are resisting spending “their” money on others, or if they refuse to do anything to earn it, it might be time for a heart to heart with them. The joy of giving can only be experienced fully when the child as earned the money or means to pay for the gift they are giving, and if they (eventually) give willingly.
5. Help someone in need now: Don’t delay! Find someone to serve or to help. Visit an elderly family member and do some shopping or chores for them, take cocoa to the Salvation Army bell ringer, buy gifts for a family who is less fortunate, pray for your pastor or others at church. Find a way, anyway, to make your child’s mind and heart more open to the wants and needs of others.
6. Serve year ’round:
We can’t just show up for Christmas decked out in jingle bells and peppermint sticks and expect everyone to be jolly.
If you have a selfish kiddo, start building their Christmas spirit in January. Make a list of 3-5 ways they can serve others such as helping younger kids in the kids ministry at your church, walking animals for the elderly, feeding the homeless, doing yard-work for a military dependent, etc. Or, if your child is creative, ask them to design their own service project. Serve alongside them once a month (or more) and see what happens!
7. Make a plan for next year: Help your kid create a plan to be more generous and thoughtful next year. Sit down with them and discuss ways for them to earn money and help them develop and spending plan and budget. If you decide together that they would like to save $100 for gifts for next year, help them divide that into weeks or small jobs. Make sure to remind them that they will also need money to spend, to save and to tithe throughout the year. This will show them that they may need to step it up in their money earning ventures.
Whatever you do, do not lose heart. Having a grumpy or stingy kid does not make you a bad parent (I know some super generous parents with difficult kids). Many teens go through a phase of the “me’s” and turn out to be wonderful in the long run. Keep praying for them and with them, and remember not to make them the center of the universe throughout the year. Show them that the world is bigger than them and that serving and loving others has inherent benefits. Most of all, model love and generosity to them and around them and teach them the following with faith and action:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
Merry Christmas everyone!