I am now admitting that I am old enough to give advice. Christmas is coming, but it’s not the goose that is getting fat – it’s me. My doctor’s advice is not to worry about it until after New Year’s. So I will share some old church lady advice for free this Christmas. Here’s my advice for all you parents, grandparents, and friends of kids as Christmas sneaks up on you.
SPANKING – Useful for nonverbal kids who are running in front of cars. A little swat on the leg will warn them physically that they could get hurt. But if you find you are spanking your five year old five times a day and nothing is changing, then the kid has figured out that he/she can outlast the temporary pain and keep doing whatever. Instead of spanking get a system of rewards and punishments that matter to the child. If he really likes to play some computer game – take that away EVERY time he breaks the rules. If he obeys the rule, reward him.
CHRISTMAS GIFTS – I don’t care if you are a billionaire, your kids need to know the value of money. Set a price for each child, say $100 each. Get them one gift or ten within the bounds that $100 will cover. Have Christmas at your own home, so they never know that the kids down the street got $1000 worth of presents.
SANTA CLAUS – Christmas is not about Santa Claus or presents. It is celebrating the birth of Christ, even though it is not the actual date when Jesus was born. (No shepherds would have been out in the fields tending sheep in the middle of winter in Palestine.) Focusing on Santa Claus is focusing on materialism – not worth it. The other problem with Santa is that eventually your kid will find out that Santa is a fable. Instead of teaching small children that there is a fat guy coming down their chimney with toys for good kids, rather teach them the real story of Saint Nicholas, a Greek Christian from 300 A.D. He was well known for secretly putting money in the shoes of people who left their shoes out by the door. Perhaps you could encourage your children to copy him, not in looking for money in their shoes, but in putting coins in the Salvation Army can outside the grocery store. Here is a fascinating perspective on Santa written by Rich Cohen who is Jewish.
TEASING – Many of us recall teasing or being teased fifty or sixty years after the event. Any time you see your child in this situation, either teased or teasing, immediately sit the two or ten kids down in the room together and let them have it out – verbally that is. If they can resolve it with you listening in the background that is good. If you must step in and ask questions or break up a fight, do so. You will be amazed at how well polite confrontation works. Teach the kids to say, “When you call me fat, it makes me feel bad.” Do not allow them to say, “You f’***** bad a**! Stop calling me fat, or I will bust you.” Learning to discuss issues objectively will stand them in good stead the rest of their lives. Here is a link to some simple ways to use conflict resolution with kids.
SEXUAL ABUSE – Never assume the relatives are safe just because you visit them for Christmas. Always protect your children. Most sexual abuse is committed by friends and relatives who seem to be perfectly nice people. Tell your children that no one should be touching them in their private parts. If someone does, they should feel free to let you know. Meanwhile, keep an eye on your kids. They will not think you are over protective. And over protecting is far better than a child being sexually abused.
THANK YOU NOTES – Always have the kids write short little thank yous or emails to us old ladies and gentlemen. Parents, keep a list of gifts and names, then assist the kids in writing their notes. It pays for your kids to value the love, advice, and gifts of the older folks. We live longer when we do this.
“Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12
You must watch this version of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Celtic Thunder – especially if you are raising kids. It demonstrates real life teasing in action – something you want to stop.