There are certain phrases and slogans in American culture that stick with us. Aimed at grabbing our attention and etching a message (and a product) into our memories, marketing geniuses have developed readily identifiable catch phrases, recognizable sometimes by only the first one or two words.

“Milk. It does a body good.”

“It’s a good time for the great taste of McDonald’s.”

“Beef. It’s what for dinner.”

Well, I am starting a campaign of my own, and I hope you all will join the bandwagon.

Practicality, it’s what’s for Christmas.

Huh? It’s January. There are 12 months before Christmas again, you say? Great! Then there will be enough time for it to catch on. Let us not find ourselves in January 2014 resolving not to overspend and fearing the balance on the credit card bill or the lack thereof on the banking statement. If we plan wisely, check our emotions at the door and apply a few scriptural references to our mindset when giving gifts to our children, we can feel as great about our January as we did about December.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are living in the last days. Just turn on the television. Reality television has made people famous for being famous; no other acclaim than their own reckless shenanigans, that for some perverse reason, are wildly entertaining. Pride and self have become the mantra of the day and we are breeding a generation of entitled children.  Technology has made possible to have anything with the push of a button and the swipe of a screen and the entertainment industry put a stamp on it by making everything about me, me, me. As parents, we have a responsibility to our children to better prepare them for the realities of life. And we can start by changing the way we give to our children.

If you were to have asked Olivia what she wanted for Christmas this year, she would have told you two things, neither of which she received, nor did she expect to receive them, but she wanted them anyway: a flat screen TV (for her bedroom) and a butler. Yes, a butler. Like Geoffrey or Benson (dang, I’m old LOL). When you ask what she did get, she is very excited to tell you about her guitar (she’s wanted one for a couple years), her pajamas and robe, the ballerina and winter outfits, the Morgan Love book series (www.stephanieperrymoore.com – awesome Christian author, check her out please!), the KidzBop Wii video game and the Doc McStuffins DVD. And even though she didn’t get a butler, she was still happy.

She’s growing like a weed and needed new clothes. She loves to read and Morgan is a second grader, just like her. She’s a dancing queen and the Wii game cost $10 at Kohl’s in August. And who doesn’t love Doc McStuffins – plus it kept her and her sister quiet on the plane ride to Hartford. So, we splurged a little on the guitar, but she’s already learned to play four songs on it. And she still uses the tablet she got last year, and the computer she got the year before. And while those may seem like extravagant gifts, the things that accompanied them were less notable, but useful all the same.

On January 1st, I came across a 52-week savings plan online. For each week of the year you save the same amount of dollars ($1 week one, $2 week two, etc.) At the end of the year, you’ll have $1378. That’ll make a great Christmas account. As humans, we get so caught up in the marketing and the emotionalism of giving that we forget to focus on what happens when the money’s spent or the credit’s maxed out. And then, as parents who have spent their last dime on our children’s happiness, we become angry and hurt when that $200 item or the $400 worth of items end up in the back of the closet, under the bed, tossed by the wayside once the next big thing come around. Ungrateful. But it’s not your child’s fault. It our failure as parents. We are failing our children by not instilling in them the values God gives us for our own lives.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 NIV

Do what the Lord wants, and he will give you your heart’s desire. Psalm 37:4 CEV

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 NIV

Children, you belong to the Lord, and you do the right thing when you obey your parents. The first commandment with a promise says, “Obey your father and your mother, and you will have a long and happy life.” Parents, don’t be hard on your children. Raise them properly. Teach them and instruct them about the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 CEV

Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are grown they will still do right. Proverbs 22:6 CEV

So essentially, God wants us to raise our children to respect and obey us, and when we do that He’ll give us what we want, and we can give them what they want. Pretty easy, huh?  Has your son done what you’ve wanted? Has your daughter been respectful and honoring of your role as mom? What about making your children work for an item if it’s really pricey? Have you held them accountable to meet your expectations?  Ouch. Been there, done that. If we held our children to the same standards God holds us to, we might find our help in giving more appropriately.

We have no debt from our Christmas giving this year. It’s not the first year we can say this, but it’s not always been this way. We purposed to be practical in our giving and planned to be able to afford it all year long. One year we even gave the girls tooth brushes in their stockings. My mother was appalled. They loved them and were excited to brush their teeth for the next month. And they happily killed the germs that cause bad breath.