I asked the following question on the Christian Mom Thoughts Facebook page recently and got over 80 passionate comments:
Do you (or did you) include Santa in your Christmas traditions? What do you think of it from a Christian perspective?
Personally, I have never taken issue with Santa as long as the emphasis is on Jesus. But there were great insights from commenters on the view that Santa should not be part of Christmas – comments that left me more deeply pondering the question.
As I considered it further, I realized it’s more than a question of Santa. It’s a question of how we, as Christian parents, make decisions every day about how to most faithfully raise our children.
What criteria can we use to make the right faith-based parenting decisions?
Let me take you on a little detour that will come back to a thought model for this question – one that can be applied to Santa and everything else in our parenting (a big promise indeed!).
Earlier this year, I read a parenting book on discipline that was only marginally helpful, but there was one particular page that left a lasting impression.
The author provided a chart of the parent/child relationship that looked something like this:
Two things intrigued me about this chart. First, the terrifying yet deeply real fact that as a parent, we automatically lose control as time goes on (I don’t like that at all!). Second, it struck me that the author’s picturesque trade-off between control and influence is highly idealized.
In a perfect world, control and influence would completely offset each other, as the graph implies; in each time period that we lose control, we would gain the same amount of influence. But depending on the choices we make and how intentional we are with our parenting, our personal family graphs might end up looking very different:
We could lose control but fail to gain influence:
Or we could lose control and replace it with only mild influence:
Here is the startling reality:
We will certainly lose control over time. But we will only possibly gain influence.
A parent’s job is to love and instruct. Influence is the tool we need in order to be in a position to instruct as our children grow. It has two components:
1. The strength of the parent/child relationship we’re building.
2. The nature of the parent/child relationship we’re building. It’s entirely possible to have a strong relationship with your kids, but not be seen as a strong influencer in the area of faith. If you simply take your kids to church each Sunday or send them to private Christian school without leading as a faithful role model at home, you may have no more influence in matters of faith than in matters of homework.
The million dollar question, then, is how do you continually strengthen your relationship with your kids and develop an influential relationship specifically in the area of faith? There are many open-ended tools at our disposal, and many ways to apply them:
- Quality time
- Teachable moments
- Family prayer
- Family Bible study
- Role modeling
- Serving opportunities
The truth is this: there are thousands of possible paths toward strong, faithful Christian influence. It is possible for different families to use the same tools in different ways, different tools in different ways, or the same tools in the same ways…all for the glory of God. This isn’t to say that there are no absolute answers when it comes to parenting methodology, but rather that the vast majority of decisions are not black and white.
When we face any parenting decision, such as where Santa fits in at Christmas, we can ask ourselves this:
Would the decision I’m considering strengthen or weaken my relationship with my kids, and would it strengthen or weaken the nature of my influence in the area of faith?
Some families might feel Santa’s inclusion in Christmas weakens their faithful influence. Other families might feel Santa has no impact on the faith-based meaning of the season.
What you do with Santa is simply one more tool in your influence box. It’s what you do with the decision, and how it aligns with everything else you do, that makes the difference.
Do you feel Santa strengthens, weakens or has no impact on your influence in the area of faith? Why?