Every Christmas movie has one: a white bearded, red suited, half-moon spectacled man peering at an unfurled scroll. There it is: The List. Through magical lenses, Mr. Claus filters and chooses what will wait under the tree for every child on Christmas morning. Children from wee ages learn the list concept, as wishes "dance in their heads."
In an age where materialism runs rampant, are there considerations for this list? And should there be a list at all? Are Christmas lists filling children with entitlement and greed? What are they teaching?
Let's put it out there...Christmas lists make life easier. No guessing, no remembering, erasing endless hours of searching and wondering. Number two goes to Grandma, five to Aunt Susie, six to Uncle John, etc. No doubt about it, life runs smoother with a list. Lists provide a base for some fullproof success—on the part of "Santa."
Behavioral consultant Chris Calland warns, "Parents are desperate to make Christmas into magical fairytales for their kids. There's nothing wrong with that as such. Problems arise when it means giving into all of children's demands—even if they are beyond price range or not age-appropriate."
"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other." ~Burton Hillis
Children's pastor Tony Kummer writes, "Many children live in a world of lies. Every television commercial makes a promise its product will never keep. Added together, these messages create a worldview with one unshakable foundation: If I can get more stuff, then I'll be happy."
It's not just the television that pushes the myth. Family traditions and good intentions play their part; parents love seeing the thrill in a son's eyes when he opens his new Transformer. But what is the long-term impact? Are we teaching kids that happiness comes in a box?
Stuff Does Not Equal Happiness.
Mark the difference between expressing love and encouraging greed. Christmas is a wonderful time of giving. But, focusing on gifts can sometimes turn to greed. This happens when joy in relationships is exchanged for the temporary thrill of getting new things.
As with any inanimate thing, the list is not inherently bad. How a child is taught to think about the list is key. What are the attitudes and expectations that surround it? Is it just a dream pad or a covetous demanding? Do they expect any or all of its contents to appear Christmas morning? Are expectations driven by commercialism or social status?
What is cute at age four turns obnoxious at 14. If we teach children to engage in materialism without restraint, we should never be surprised when ten years later, it evolves into entitled behaviors and lists that surpass resources. They are only doing what they have been taught: asking for what they want even if it is a Jeep, flat-screen TV or Louis Vuitton.
Elaine Stone, mother of three, lives in Spotsylvania.
Tips to curb Christmas Lists!
(Adapted from Teach Kids Christmas Gratitude)
* Teach kids that gifts are treats, not entitlements. Gifts aren't rewards for good behavior. They are given out of love.
* Choose gifts you want to give, not just ones they want to get.
* Budget. Stop buying when you hit budget.
* Never allow kids to bully, blackmail, guilt or harass you into buying.
* Beware of giving single expensive gifts. You'll end up buying too much to avoid only one gift under the tree.
* Avoid gift mountains. It's an inverse proportion, the higher the stack, the less each is appreciated.
* Go cheap on stocking stuffers. Like under a dollar. Or skip stockings altogether.
* Under no circumstances should you buy more than you can afford. Don't lie or pretend. Find cheap or free ways to celebrate. Kids won't suffer without gifts, but they will if you spend money you needed for necessities.
* Homemade is good. Make stuff with the kids and for them. Encourage them to make gifts for others. Regift. Repair used toys.
* Give to charity. Kids who have too much or enough need to learn to share with kids who don't.
* No fussing. At the first complaint or pout, put toys away. If it's really bad, make him return toys and give you the money. Zero tolerance shows you love him enough to make him behave.