A parenting word about gift giving

(This was a blog entry that I made a year ago, republished—with a few minor changes—for Definitely Filipino.  Enjoy)

It’s Christmas season again, and one of the SOPs of this time of year is gift giving.  For me, the frequency of gift giving is pretty intense during the ‘ber months.  My birthday is in October, my wife’s in November.  My two oldest children were born in December and October, respectively (get to know more about me, here).  Then there’s the manic gift giving of Christmas…and for me that means buying a gift for the Kris cringles of all three of my kids, my work Christmas party, my small group’s Christmas party, and my mom’s small group’s party…and…and…it’s just so much.

Over the years, my wife and I, and especially our kids, have received tons of gifts.  Unfortunately, many of these gifts are not necessarily beneficial to the ones who receive them.

I have attended many parenting talks hosted by my church community (Christ’s Commission Fellowship, or CCF for short, a great disciple-making church located downtown Cagayan de Oro and in other parts of the Philippines), and often times, the verse Luke 2:52 comes up.  It is the last verse of Jesus’ childhood, and it goes:

“and Jesus grew in wisdom, and stature, in favor with God and man.”

Here’s a great model of how a child should grow.  Jesus grew in wisdom (intellectually) and stature (physically), in favor with God (spiritually) and man (socially).  Everything that we do with our kids should be purposeful in developing these four areas.  To me, that “everything” should include gift giving.  I have made it a point that whenever I give a gift, it should help develop the recipient intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Allow me, oh gift-givers, to list down what I’d stray away from when I shop for gifts (very un-Luke 2:52).  I’m sure this list in not extensive, but it’s a great start.

1.  Candy.  Often times, loved ones (especially from abroad) will shower my kids with huge bags of candy.  I appreciate the gesture, but I don’t think it’s the best thing for them. The reasons are obvious: bad teeth, negative nutritional value, and bad dietary habits (it will take many, many days of constant junk-food binging to finish these bags).  I actually tell them my concerns here and instead advise them to give dried berries & trail mix goodies instead. Generally, the relatives comply.

2.  Toy guns.  I was advised by a great parent and mentor not to buy guns for my son, because they do nothing for him except allow him to make-believingly act out violent scenes.  I totally agree.  Kids don’t need to pretend-shoot their friends, and they won’t benefit or learn anything from doing so.  Remember, the young child is constructing himself—and if that construction involves “bang, bang—you’re dead”…well, he may not ever shoot anyone, but he’s not learning the best values, either.

3.  Violent programs/cartoons.  A mentor of mine often says that kids of a certain age tend to hero worship and tend try to be like the heroes they idolize.  Now, if the moral example they get is very violent, what will be absorbed in their little heads?  I know some irresponsible parents who allow their kids to watch violent programs (explicative-filled action movies, reality boxing shows, etc.), and then their kids run out and re-enact the scenes on the playground.  Even children’s programs themed on “good guy beats the tar out of the bad guy” shouldn’t be shown to very young audiences.  I struggle with this one the most, because these cartoons are also fun to watch for adults, and I used to be a comic geek.

4.  Video games.  Same story as above plus (and this is a HUGE plus) they are very, very addicting…I should know.  I have some video games for the kids in the computer, but they’re usually puzzle games or ones that teach typing skills.  Still, kids today are quite sedentary compared to previous generations, and so the gifts given should encourage them to get out some (grow in stature, remember?).  Video games, with few exceptions, don’t do that.

5.  Media or toy franchises that promote vanity or self-consciousness.  With all the narcissism that gets pounded into our minds every day, the last thing my kids need is some Bratz merchandise that will make them more conscious of “strutting their stuff” and all other emotions focused on self.  I want my kids to be modest and others-centered.  Their Christian Children’s Ministry and Montessori backgrounds do a good job there, but they can’t be totally sheltered from all the “spaghetti pababa” stuff out in the world.  Me, as a gift-giver, will not promote that culture to the kids I give gifts to.

This season, I will do my utmost in choosing gifts that help the recipient grow in wisdom, and stature, in favor with God, and man.  Here’s part 2 of this article, focusing on good gifts to get, Luke 2:52 gifts.  Oh, comments are welcome, of course.

(I hope you enjoyed this article.  My blog, Lessons Of A Dad is mostly about parenting, with a bit of Christian living and ministry, marriage, Pinoy patriotism, and others topics aimed to develop the reader’s mind, body, and soul.  If you would like some good, helpful articles on these topics, I would consider it an honor if you follow or subscribe to Lessons Of A Dad.  You can also go to my Facebook page here, and I’m also on Twitter at @lessonsofadad)

About Lessons Of A Dad

A happily married Filipino father of three. Loves God, his family, and his job as a teacher. Has a blog on parenting, Christian living, and other stuff.