All parents know what it is like to be in the grocery store when it is busy and our child walks past the toy of their dreams or they are just tired so we get the nightmare of a pitching of a fit. Some have tried telling them that they are going to bed early. Some try spanking their children (I would not suggest that). Finally, when nothing else has worked we all have said, “IF you are not good Santa is not going to bring you anything for Christmas”. I will not lie I have used this with my children before. It works! Why should I condemn something that works? Because I do not believe in the means justify the ends. Just because a particular action results in the preferred behavior does not mean that is the best way to parent. As a parent I worry about being the best I can for my children. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. The savior that came to die for the sins of the world. This is the God that we are celebrating, yet when we say the phrase “You wont get presents if you” we misrepresent the Christ and turn to religion.

Jesus was in constant clashes with the religious class of His day. He called them sons of Satan (John 8:44), hypocrites and vipers (Matthew 23). Why did Jesus find the people that represent God to the people so appalling? They were overloading unnecessary laws and regulations on the people and they “neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness”. When dealing with our children we need to have justice and mercy. Sin should not be something tolerated in a house of Christians. Jesus says it would be better for us to pluck out our eyes if they are causing us to sin. Sin should be taken very seriously. Since one of the commandments is to obey  your father and mother then we should take our roles extremely mindful of our actions. Leadership is always judged more harshly than followers. As parents we should not put burdensome rules on our children like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time. Our rules should make sense and be able to be explained simply to a three year old.

As for my house we have two rules: No hitting another person for any reason and no taking toys that are not yours. These are simple and the interpretations can be broad. My three year old cites them to me every day to explain when his sister has done something wrong. I can clearly defend why these are rules when my children ask the infamous question, “WHY?!”.

When a child breaks a rule you need to go to them and question them. It is important to know the why of what they did. This is what Jesus is concerned with since He is the only one to know our hearts. Remember the King that Abraham gave his wife to the second time. God said the King who did not know Sarah was married, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me.” God knows our hearts and judges our actions accordingly. As we are made in His image we should try to do the same. Asking the child why they hit or stole can be more important to correcting the issue than the punishment itself.

Telling a child that they broke one rule or many rules qualifies them for missing Christmas is not justice. It is an absurd and harsh punishment. All of us agree on this. When we as parents say it we do not mean it. We are not being genuine with our children. Our children need the raw truth from us to trust us. I am not in the camp of condoning Santa for being a lie, because I play games with my children all the time were we pretend. My son actually believes that I am batman and he is spider-man. Taking away Christmas is not a game it is a punishment.

Not only is it a punishment it doesn’t even play well within the game. Think about it! The whole reason that we give gifts on Christmas is because we are representing the gift that God gave us through Jesus’ birth. Jesus came to Earth, wrapped His spirit in flesh, lived, and died for us “while we were still sinners“. That is the beauty of the story and the largest difference between Jesus and all other false gods. Our God loves us and saves us while we are ugly with sin. Telling our children they will only get the gift that represents Jesus if they are good misrepresents God and why  He came.

If we are being true to the spirit of the holiday being good or bad should play no part in receiving gifts on Christmas. The worst child should get amazing and generous gifts just as the best child. Am I suggesting you do this throughout the year? No I am not suggesting rewarding bad behavior. What I am more worried about is misrepresenting God to my children. Jesus tells us when we pray to begin with “Our Father…”. When my children pray their thoughts of God will directly be tied to me, their dad. We need to represent Christ as much as possible to our children. As Christian parents we are responsible for raising our children in the faith. We cannot do this properly if we are more focused on their deeds than their heart.