In light of the holiday season, Dr. Leman offers his advice on how to make sure your kid receives the most important gift of all: the gift of giving. Learn more about Dr. Leman at

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Doug:                       Well hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea:                  And I’m Andrea.

Doug:                       And we are so glad that you are with us today. And if this is your first time with us welcome. And just to let you know this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child please go seek a local professional for help. Well Dr.Leman today we are talking about getting ready for the holiday season. Did you ever get a gift that you really loved or remember as a kid growing up around Christmas?

Dr. Leman:           I do. It was a yellow football helmet with a blue stripe on it. And I must have been 10 years old and I remember looking, they had it right in the store window in this little village I grew up in. So while I was looking at it I think the clearest part of the memory was a disappointment because I know my mom and dad couldn’t afford that. I’m not gonna say we were poor because we were rich in so many ways but we sure didn’t have much money. So when that arrived underneath the Christmas tree on Christmas morning I about flipped.

Doug:                       Fun fun fun. Well today’s topic is that, where Christmas is gonna be sneaking up on us in the holiday season is right around the corner.

Andrea:                  And we’re thinking about shopping for our kids.

Doug:                       And going to a whole bunch. And so Dr.Leman help us, how do we keep the holiday season in proper perspective? And then how do I not overdo it? How do I do it the best for my kids?

Dr. Leman:           All right let’s start tonight. Around the dinner table and mom or dad brings up the topic. Christmas is just X number of days away. It’s X number of weeks away and all of a sudden the kids who seemed to tuned you out, their eyes are narrowed. They’re looking at you. They’re waiting for every word you’re going to say because now you’re talking parent, Christmas. And you start by saying “Okay listen I’m excited about Christmas too, everybody let’s see should we start with the oldest Matthew or the youngest you Sarah? I’m gonna let you kids figure it out. Who do you want to start with?” “I want it.” “Okay Sarah we’re going to start with you. What would you like to give to someone for Christmas?”

See you guys already like this spot don’t you.

Doug:                       I do. I do.

Dr. Leman:           Because you see it sets it right out in motion that this is a time the giving should be accentuated, the giving to other people, not the getting. And of course kids we’ve established that years ago through a book called Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. Our hedonistic little suckers. Their nature is to get. I want, I need. But we’re going to start with “What is something that you would love to give to someone Sarah?” So we set asail into this busy turbulent sea of Christmas with a port of call. We know where we’re going. And parents in all situations you’re the ones that set the destination. Yes you get input from your sailors, your little sailors. But you are the captain and the co-captain of the good ship family. As you venture out of port as I’ve said many times you’ve got to know where you’re going. So you can put things in proper perspective. You can set such limits of what we can spend on giving someone a present. Then of course you can flip it around to the ones that most kids by their nature are concerned with. And that’s what am I going to get, what do I want for Christmas. And I don’t want to come across as the killjoy of all times. But I think again you set in motion “I want you guys to receive a gift that you’d really like at Christmas because Christmas is a special season.”

And it’s an opportunity for you parents to tell kids why we celebrate Christmas. “Is this when the big stone was rolled away?” “No it’s not Matthew. You haven’t been listening in church have you.” And you give the kids an opportunity not right then and there but I want you guys to think about what’s one gift that you would really really like for Christmas. And when I’m going to talk about that gift tonight now you may think you already know but next Thursday night let’s sit down at the dinner table let’s talk about that one gift that you would really like and dad and mom will bring to you guys a gift that we would really like as well. So see you just even the field right off the bat. That’s how you start I think. Because it’s crazy what we do in the name of loving our children.

Doug:                       So that’s an incredible thought to sit around the table and say we’re going to talk about Christmas and say what are you going to give to others, like what’s that going to do?

Dr. Leman:           What’s it going to do is get them really to think about what the true meaning of Christmas is all about. It’s going to get them off their self-centered nature and think about other people. “You have a grandma who gives you such great hugs and reads you such great stories and I was just wondering Alan what would you like to get your grandma for Christmas this year?”

Andrea:                  I like how you set it up.

Dr. Leman:           Well a discussion about grandma. “Grandma loves flowers.” “You’re right, she loves flowers. I wonder what we could do. Hmm flowers. It’s Christmas time.” And let the kids figure it out. The oldest says “Maybe we could get grandma a gift certificate for the nursery.” “Oh good idea. I bet she’d love to pick out some stuff this spring.” You see what I’m saying?

Andrea:                  Yeah.

Doug:                       Then did you say that we as parents throw money in the pot to go buy the gift card at the nursery? But we set a limit on what we’re going to do for everybody. Did I hear that right?

Dr. Leman:           Well again this is a key thing here. Kids have access to money these days. In too many homes they have access to too much money. Now if they’re going to give a gift how much of that gift should she or he be a part of. See I like the idea of a kid going out and working. If you live in the snow belt where kids shovel driveways and walks for people there’s ways that kids can make money, babysitting et cetera. But kids do have money. A lot of them are a little chintzy. And they don’t want to spend their money on anybody.

Well how do you teach kids about giving? I used to tell a story at several hours about a little kid who was just I think three years old and the parents got ahead of themselves. They wanted to start an allowance at age 3 which is way way way too early. Five or six if you’re asking. So the kid as I recall gave all of her pennies to God. She put all of her pennies, the parents started giving her pennies as an allowance. So when the collection plate came by a church the kid put all her money in the thing. Well that same afternoon they were at a mall and there’s one of these gigantic gumball machines in there and back in those days the now 25 cent one was about 10 cents. She wanted a gumball and she asked her mom if she could have a gumball. She said “Well honey use your allowance money.” And she said “Well I gave all my money to God.” And the next week. Guess what? God got stiffed. God didn’t get a nickel out of that kid. I still laugh when I think about that. But you know we’re looking for balance here.

We want kids to have a piece of the action. We want them to have a say in their family. That’s cool. But when it comes to giving gifts, that gift can be made by a kid for an adult. But what does a kid give to his brother or his sister? I mean every family is different. Some don’t exchange gifts between kids. I mean do what you wanna do. I’m just saying don’t go hog crazy, get yourself in debt with plastic. If you do that out of guilt to give your kids a great Christmas. Really? Tell that to a donkey. He’d kick your brains out. So let’s keep things in proper perspective.

Doug:                       So let’s talk about the guilt because that’s the a number one thing that’s going to stop us. So I’d look at you cock eyed and say Dr.Leman I give my kid one gift they really want. I focus on them giving to others. And when my kids go back to school and all their friends say “Hey Doug what did you get at Christmas?” And I say “I got a T-shirt and I gave my grandma flowers.” My kids are going to feel horrible. They’re gonna think I’m a horrible parent and they’re gonna hate me.

Dr. Leman:           What about the Doug that says “I got a computer.”

Doug:                       Or I only get one gift and they’re like “Oh what else did you get?”

Dr. Leman:           Well you gave yourself a T-shirt. I’m just saying that with some kids depending upon their age you may want to spring, it might be time to get them a computer or if you want to get them a game system of some kind. I mean maybe this is the opportunity to do that. Do I think that’s a great gift for kids? I don’t. But every parent’s different. Do what you want to do. I’m just saying keep it in proper perspective. And anytime a kid wails about oh this kid got this and this kid got that, it’s just a simple “Honey listen, you want me to call the Johnsons to see if they’ll take you on. I’d be glad to. Better yet why don’t you call them.”

Doug:                       But I’ve set the expectation for years. I’ve given them 10-15-20 gifts and I’ve gone hog wild. How do I change that expectation?

Dr. Leman:           Let’s go back to the dinner table. “Hey kids. We all know Christmas is coming. You know things have been rough. You know dad was unemployed for six months so we thank God he got a new job. But we have really been struggling just trying to make things go so everybody has to think about how we can cut down expenses at Christmas. And this is going to affect all of us. It’s affecting Dad, it’s affecting me. It’s going to affect you too. So we think about the Christmas season I want you to think about giving a gift to other people, key people in our family and I want you to think about maybe one gift that you’d really like. Christmas is going to be different. There’s not going to be as many presents as we normally have. But that’s just something we have to do as a family because Dad was out of work for six months.”

Doug:                       Let’s say dad got a raise and a big bonus and mom she did too. Why would I give my kids less gifts? What’s the harm in-?

Dr. Leman:           Less is always better.

Andrea:                  So it’s not just a financial issue. It’s more of what are we going to set for the expectation for our kids from here on out or what’s healthy for them?

Dr. Leman:           They’re greedy. They’re self-centered. We’ve established that in so many podcasts and we hear from our podcast listeners that they love that. And I think many of them know that what we’re talking about is spot on but they don’t have the courage to do it because they’ve set precedent with their kids. Take a Christmas morning where a kid goes from gift to gift just ripping open the package, looking at it, tossing it aside and jumping onto the next one. I mean I can’t think of a scene on Christmas morning that I would hate to be a part of than that. That to me is sickening. In the Leman family for the record we gather around and we open gifts and we have a large family but we open them one gift at a time. And somebody plays Santa and picks a gift and gives it to a person who it’s addressed to and we all watch in awe to see if Mom will get a new tablecloth.

Doug:                       So you’re saying that if I hear you right is that if I keep this lavishing my kids with gifts they’re going to miss the whole reason for the getting together, that it’s about family and it’s about giving. And I’m just feeding that natural desire that I want when I want when I want it. Is that what I-

Dr. Leman:           I always said the Terpening boy was smart.

Doug:                       That’s what you’re telling us right?

Dr. Leman:           That’s right.

Doug:                       That I’m feeding that monster.

Dr. Leman:           So I would go what are we talking about, we’re talking about keep things in perspective. Talk about why we celebrate Christmas. You wanna talk about the pagan holidays I don’t care. Go on about that. Jesus probably was not born in December, he was probably born in April. But nevertheless we celebrate Christ’s birth. It’s a time for Christians to come together. Now everybody it seems like today celebrates a very tinsel laden, a superficial, artificial, cosmetic Christmas. Which for people of faith I would hope you could take this a step deeper. That’s all I’m saying.

Doug:                       That’s great. And for even for … and just when I think about you and I like why do we do what we do at Christmas? And why do we do what we do with our kids? Interesting. Interesting.

Andrea:                  Maybe step back and just ask between the two of you. “Why are we doing this this year? What do we want to change?”

Dr. Leman:           I found frankincense on Amazon and I’m Amazon Prime.

Doug:                       I think a story that you’ve told before Dr. Leman that might be helpful is didn’t you guys like go give money or something at Thanksgiving or Christmas once?

Dr. Leman:           Oh it’s been a tradition now for years and the last couple of years we really went overboard. And my son rented a they call it a party bus I think, I mean it was really something, it’s like a big a Winnebago only a lot cooler than a Winnebago looks like and we went out into the park so Tucson and then we had the grandchildren, they were the money runners and they would give money to homeless people and food and socks and hand warmers and you name it, we had it all. It was just a fun experience to give to other people but it was a fun experience to show our grandchildren that there are people who live in cardboard boxes for a lot of different reasons.

Doug:                       And for our listeners what did your grandkids say at the end of that? Do they say “Why do we do that Grandpa? I want that money.” Or what is their response?

Dr. Leman:           It was very genuine and real because they had compassion in their heart. They were glad they were a part of it. They want to do it again. It’s easy to teach kids to get. That’s a natural hedonistic feeling in all of us. It’s difficult to teach kids to give but when they see the reality of other people’s plights in life they become what? More thankful for the things that they have. They realize that they live a blessed life. When you live a blessed life you have an obligation to bless other people don’t you? I think so.

Doug:                       Well and to quickly follow up that story I am not the giver of our family, that’s Andrea and our youngest. And our youngest really wanted to go serve at the Union Gospel Mission meals. And I was like grumble grumble grumble, I want my holiday. And it was great. What you just said is exactly right. All my kids came back and they were like “Wow dad we have it really good. I don’t know why we complain about X and Y.” You’re right it did teach them generosity and I love how you said it. You don’t have to teach kids how to be selfish like you don’t have to teach me.

Dr. Leman:           No they do a good job of that themselves. But how many people have gone on mission trips? I mean I did one down in El Salvador and it changed my life in many ways. So seeing that everybody doesn’t have the things that many of us take for granted is important, it’s a important part of life. So again parents enjoy Christmas. You run yourself ragged trying to get a gift for everybody under the sun. Mrs.Upington, the gift giver of all gift givers. I’ll give you this, she’s smart. She’ll go to Cees Candy and she’ll by like 12 of those one pound box of chocolates and she’ll have them at the house, they’re the reserves for when someone comes over and she has this compunction to give someone a gift. There it is.

Doug:                       Sweet. Well I hope that helps parents free them up from the guilt and ought to and craziness. And I love that last line. “Our kids are naturally selfish.” I’m naturally selfish. But it’s a chance to teach him to be generous and givers. That’s great.

Andrea:                  Yeah. And I love how you spring that on us at the beginning. Go around the table. Okay who’s going to be first. What do you want to give. It caught me off guard.

Doug:                       That’s a good one.

Dr. Leman:           Bushwhack the little suckers. Bushwhack them.

Doug:                       You have no compassion for children Dr.Leman, none.

Dr. Leman:           Love those little suckers.

Andrea:                  I think we can have a lot of fun giving this holiday time.

Dr. Leman:           We will.

Doug:                       Well super. I hope that blesses you. And I just want to again say huge thanks to our friends over at Revel Books that are making this podcast possible. And they’ve been publishing Dr. Leman’s books for many many years. And without them we couldn’t be doing this. So a huge thank you to them. And we look forward to the next time we get to hang out with you. And we hope you have a fabulous upcoming holiday season as well.

Andrea:                  Bye bye. Thank you.

Doug:                       Take care.