Is Christmas a season filled with love? It sure appears that way. Thoughtful gifts fill the carts, an extra dose of Dickens’ Tiny Tim is in everyone, and the sentimentality of a peaceful walk through a snow-riddled Christmas display are all clear signs of the season. Love fills the air. Mistletoes and warm, cozy evenings by the fire fuel such amorous emotions.
Christmas is certainly conducive to love in all its forms, but do we forsake certain uncomfortable nuances of love so that we do not spoil the spirit of Christmas?
The author of Hebrews tells us that God disciplines the one he loves (Heb. 12:6). Discipline is an essential part of love, and if we are to love children this Christmas, we must not neglect discipline.
When one conjures up images of Christmas, discipline is generally not an image depicted. This time of the year is filled with love, but if love and discipline are inextricably linked, why do we shy away from the latter?
How often do we leave room for discipline in this season?
Whether it’s during Christmas or not, “taking a break” from discipline is not a healthy option for parents. Christmas is not a time to take a “parent’s vacation” and spoil a child. It may be tempting to do so, but children will most likely be parents one day and we do not want to pass on a legacy of inconsistent principles.
Being a child who grew up adoring Christmas, I know the feeling of unmet expectations after all the presents have been opened. I know what it’s like to “want more.” These unmet expectations ruined my attitude, and discipline is needed to realign my attitude to a more selfless one--one that is more thankful.
What spirit produced those selfish expectations in me? Certainly not the spirit of Christmas.
What will an undisciplined child do with unmet expectations? They will grow even more selfish. They will sulk.
Remember Dudley, from Harry Potter? He was intensely aggravated by the amount of gifts his parents gave him for his birthday because there was “one less than last year.” He sulked with unmet expectations. That is why it is necessary to guide children through those unmet expectations. Although discipline may sound severe, it is not evil--far from it! Indeed, the most powerful lessons from discipline are often the soft words of reprimand.
When a child has unmet expectations, a parent must address it or else it will slowly fester into embitterment as more unmet expectations will surely be added to it over the course of his/her childhood. A parent who doesn't walk with their child through unmet expectations is only letting embitterment fester. What parent would leave a thorn to fester? Then why would we let embitterment fester?
But if we neglect discipline and guidance altogether, what are we raising our children to be?
Do we want our next generation to be filled with people like Dudley?
Some might say, “Well, after all, it’s Christmas! Let the children be spoiled a little bit.”
Who cares if it’s Christmas! How is this season different than the rest of the year? There are no holidays in the occupation of “parenthood.” It is a full-time, 24/7 job.
What is Christmas anyway? What is its spirit?
Christmas is about the coming of Jesus, who came for a single purpose: to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
The Devil loves selfish hearts. When we celebrate Christmas, we are also celebrating the destruction of our selfish hearts. In the work of Jesus, we are freed from the bondage to our egotistical strivings. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of freedom.
Discipline may seem to clash with the notion of “freedom,” but discipline is the means through which we obtain freedom. Those who find themselves in Christ are freed from sin, but that does not make their habitual deeds completely perfect. In other words, nobody will be perfect in this life. We are saved from sin, but we have a lot of work to do in the area of growth.
What do children do? They grow.
How can a child grow without discipline?
We certainly cannot grow in our new life without God, and children cannot grow without the guidance of their parents. Discipline, no matter how mild, is something that appears severe, but it is always a means to an end, not the end itself.
If we maintain discipline during Christmas, our children will find greater joy because proper discipline will open the door to a selfless life. There will be less “unmet expectations” and more thankfulness in a disciplined child.
As a child of parents, I ask all parents to consider their children’s future this Christmas. Stop satisfying selfishness and start satisfying growth. Give them gifts they will truly value, not just gifts that will cast aside half-a-year from now. Don’t dump gifts on them in attempts to alleviate any past or current negligence on your part.
And always remember that God is our loving parent who disciplines us, his children, so why should we not love our children the same way? We are not to lightly regard the discipline of the Lord (Heb. 12:5), and nor should we lightly regard the discipline of our own children.
I may be sounding severe here, and it may be brash coming from a non-parent, but I will be a parent someday, and I do not want to raise my children to be selfless without other parents doing it as well. I need help, and I know you do too. That is why we must never be ashamed to seek help with guiding our children into a life of selflessness because that is the life we want for them.
Love fills this season, so let’s teach our children what it means to love.