Today’s Table Talk is by my friend Erin. I enjoy and am inspired by just about everything Erin says and does. I’m thrilled she’s sharing some tidbits today. Get ready for some, “oh no she di’int!”… and some smiles. Because attitudes don’t ever seem to take a vacation and because we’ve all been there.

Thanks so much for sharing, Erin … and thanks for walking the road with me.


I love this time of year.  There’s so much joy and celebration.  There’s so much to be grateful for.  There’s beauty and twinkling lights all around.

And, there’s something BIG we can hold over our kids’ heads to keep them in line: Santa!  Like most kids, ours are anticipating the best gifts of the year from Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.

I get it.  They’re kids.  They’re excited.  But, should they automatically expect gifts?

My kids are generally pretty good…when they want to be.  They know how to be thoughtful, kind, well-mannered, respectful and encouraging to others.  That doesn’t mean they always do it, though…especially when it comes to the way they treat each other.

They’ve been warned, though.

message elf

Our Elf on the Shelf, Eric, recently appeared with a special message for the kids.  We decided that it was a thoughtful message, warning the kids that they were nearing the Naughty List for all the bickering and antagonizing they’ve been doing lately.  Then, we had a long talk about showing love; not just saying it.  Actions speak louder.

Did their actions change?

They did for a short while.  But, short-lived it was.

So, last week, my husband and I sat down with our kids.  We asked them what was on their Christmas wish list, making sure we understood what they wanted most.

…And then came the disappointing blow to their world of high expectations…

We lovingly explained to them that we were certain Santa wouldn’t get them the “top” gift on their list.  After all, they were almost on the Naughty List for their behavior.  We further explained that their only shot at getting their most-wanted item was for us to purchase it for Christmas.

Let me hit the pause button for a second to explain how Christmas works in our house.  First, we focus more on the fact that it’s Jesus’ birthday than anything else.  We read from the Bible about that special day, and we give our kids three presents, just as baby Jesus received gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Santa brings one additional gift each and fills everyone’s stocking full of little goodies.

Now, don’t go thinking we’re mean parents.  We’re not.  Our kids are spoiled.  Their needs are ALL met.  Many of their wants are met too.  We’re very blessed on a daily basis.  We acknowledge it, and we’re grateful for it.  And, quite frankly, our kids don’t need and won’t appreciate a ton of gifts on one day.  So, we’ve never done it, and they’ve always been just fine; not at all scarred from the experience!

Un-pause…and back to our special talk with our kids…

Much to their dismay, we set a clear expectation for Christmas morning that went like this:

We talked about it and have decided we will not be getting you the gift you want most.  You’ll still be getting gifts, because you’re good kids….but you haven’t been trying your best.  You’ve been choosing to antagonize each other and disrespect us as your parents, over-and-over-again.  Because you didn’t give your best, you will not get rewarded with the best gift on your list.  It’s only fair.

Here’s what’s really cool.  Without arguing, they accepted our explanation.  They knew we were right.  They knew they could have been making better choices.  They knew they hadn’t given their best.  And, they both admitted it.

We hugged as a family.  We assured them we love them, we believe in them and that it would be a great Christmas, regardless of any particular presents…and we asked that they try harder to follow our family rules and values.

That’s how people know who we are and what we’re all about.  They know from our behavior, we reinforced.

This isn’t an easy decision.  It’s really hard to disappoint them, in fact.  We love them enough to follow through, though, because we only have them for a short time (our oldest just turned nine, and I realized half of our time with him living at home might be gone – ugh!)

More than anything, we want our kids to be prepared for the world.  The real world.  The one that is often-times less than fair.

We want them to understand their actions have consequences.  Their choices have impact.  Their willingness to give can affect their ability to receive.

And, so…this Christmas, Santa Clause will be still be generous and joyful, but he will also be fair and just….and our Christmas will still be Merry!  And, hopefully, our kids will learn and grow from this experience.  That would be the best Christmas gift of all!

Erin Schreyer is a 40-something mom of two, wife, entrepreneur, leadership coach, speaker, trainer and life enthusiast! You can find more information about Erin on her company’s website and on LinkedIn. Follow and LIKE Erin’s Facebook pages for Sagestone Partners and Strengths and Sisterhood.

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