It was Christmas morning 1980 something and I was opening up all the gifts sitting in my spot on the living room couch. My kid brain was of course interested in only one specific gift, so I was ripping and shedding through the presents searching for it.

At the end of the frenzy ‘it’ wasn’t there. I wanted a boom box, the big kind you could take to the playground and play your favorite songs while having a dance off with your friends.

You’ve been there, wanted something and didn’t get it.

Now here’s where I turn you, the reader, into my priest. (Kidding) But I am going to confess something to you. I was a brat, crushed and mad. Rude to my parents who just gave me more than some children in this world would get that morning.

Don’t let your children be brats, teach them to be gracious receivers

That one moment in time is frozen in my mind and here’s why:  I look back on it as being mean as heck to my parents.  Mean to the people who didn’t have to buy me one thing.

Did I thank them for the gifts I received that morning? Maybe, it was probably flippant though. Dismissive, hurtful.

Of course my parents weren’t looking for a thank-you from me, but they didn’t deserve a brat to respond to them in anger or ungratefulness.

Back to the future:

Now let’s jump ahead to 2016, I’m almost 40 years old. I’ve got three kids of my own and here’s a non-negotiable rule my husband and I have set before our children when it comes to gift receiving:

No matter what the gift it, how it is presented or who it is from, you are to be a gracious and grateful recipient.

As we head into the holiday season where kids (and some adults) honestly get greedy and beg for junk every single day here are some behavior patterns we reinforce with our kids:

  1. Three gifts, that’s it and you can tell me exactly what you want: The season is to be focused on how we can give to others in numerous ways, because God gave His Son to us. Don’t be selfish and focus on what you can get this season. {We don’t do Santa, read that here.}
  2. What to do if you receive a gift you do not like or want or already have: You are to still be thankful that the person thought of you, went to the trouble of getting you something and wrapped it up. Even if the gift is terrible – you can still be grateful and you better show it in your attitude and response to the giver.
  3. It’s more than luck, it’s grace: There are children that do not get to have a Christmas with their family because they’re sick, kidnapped, missing or various other reasons.  You are to be grateful to God for allowing your situation to be different, because by His grace your ability to participate in giving and receiving isn’t dismal.
  4. Life doesn’t revolve around stuff:  We have taught our kids that working hard for your money is basically time away from your family.  This is important to show the kids that we just don’t throw our money away, because it’s basically wasting time away from the family.  If I waste money on tons of junk, I have to work more to keep up that lifestyle or pay bills. To us, we put value on trips, experiences etc. not stuff. So earning money to do things together is worth it, earning money to buy stuff to clutter up the house is not. Here’s the formula:

Hours worked x Wage = Paycheck

Cost of item / hourly pay = How many hours I had to work (a.k.a be away from the family) to actually pay for the item.

5. Don’t be a brat when you become an adult either:  A brat is defined by someone who receives the gift and takes it with an attitude of they deserve the gift and more.  You deserve nothing.  We deserve nothing.  God points us to our wretched behavior as humans by telling us that we need a Savior.  We don’t deserve a savior, we need one.  Sometimes you receive gifts, not because you deserve it or want it, but because you need it.  When God places gifts in your path, first praise Him then whatever you do, make sure you tell the giver how much their thoughtfulness means to you.