By now, you may have already heard this story, but I wanted to wait until it was closer to Christmas to comment on it here. At this time of year, I always try to write a piece that offers ideas on how we can better develop students during the holiday season. This year, I begin with a very odd circumstance from Utah: Lisa and John Henderson decided to cancel Christmas at their house this year.
She explained in an article:
We have not stopped decorating, celebrating the birth of our Savior, or any of our other heartwarming traditions. But we have canceled presents, Santa, and stockings. My three sons’ letters to Santa this year will ask Santa to find someone who needs their presents more.
My husband, John, and I feel like we are fighting an uphill battle with our kids when it comes to entitlement. They expect so much even when their behavior is disrespectful. We gave them good warning: They needed to change their behavior or there would be consequences. We patiently worked with them for months, but guess what—very little changed. One day, after a particularly bad display of entitlement, John said, ‘We should just cancel Christmas.’ And so, we did. We’ll be taking the money we would have spent on presents and put it toward service projects and gifts for others. We’re trying to teach them the pleasure of giving rather than continuing to feed their desire for more.
The few presents they get from grandparents and other family members will be more cherished. Christmas morning won’t be less special without Santa. Instead we can enjoy our Cinnamon rolls, play games as a family, and truly appreciate the few presents they do get. Santa may write them letters saying how proud of them he is, and perhaps put a few pieces of hard candy and an orange in their stockings.
Wow. You can imagine Lisa must have received both harsh reprimands from parents everywhere as well as compliments on her consistency. She assured other parents that her kids are in no way hurting for things. It’s not like she took away Christmas from Tiny Tim. And, her kids have reacted to the no-Santa news by making gifts for each other. They are learning exactly what we wanted them to learn, not moping around feeling sorry for themselves.
My point in reviewing this story is to say I’m amazed at the resolve of both Lisa and John with their kids. She later said:
I really think that we as parents need to look at our motivation for giving gifts to our kids. How often are kids threatened that Santa won’t come if they are naughty … yet have you ever heard of anyone that followed through on that threat? I want to empower parents to feel like it’s OK to take a stand, without worrying that our kids will feel like they have mean parents. While this may not be the best choice for everyone, it feels right for our family right now. We really want Christmas to be remembered for the right reasons and to keep the focus on the Savior and the feeling of giving. That is the true essence of Christmas.
This story reminds me of some important truths when it comes to leading kids:
- We can be both tough and tender, as we display love to young people.
- Nothing is more powerful than consistency and follow-through with them.
- Kids need reminders of what life is all about—that while receiving gifts comes naturally, giving is something we must learn.
- When we take something away from them, we should always replace it with something constructive and redemptive.
This year, try using the holidays to clarify the reason for the season. You may be amazed at what it’ll do for your family.
2 Final Deals – Pick Your Own Deal This Christmas!
This week you choose one of the following deals through our Pick-a-Present Holiday Games:
1. FREE Habitudes® Poster Set with Purchase of any Teacher’s Guide
2. 50% Off the Parent’s Resource Kit