There’s an article circulating about a woman who wrote to an advice columnist about trick or treaters being bused into her affluent neighborhood from poorer areas. The woman complains that this is not right and gets slammed by the columnist. http://slate.me/1sTsR7k
But this is an issue that goes far beyond the candy and speaks to values. What are the values these children, who are being bused in from other areas, learning? Are they hearing – What we have is not good enough? You are owed hoards of candy? It’s okay to take from people as long as they have more than you? Or maybe they’re learning that mom and dad want the best for them, even if they have to go to the trouble of taking them to another neighborhood. They could be inspired by what they see.
Adults often complain that there is a feeling of entitlement, a desire to hoard as much as possible, to covet, to be greedy and gluttonous in children these days. As parents, regardless of which socio-economic class we fall into, it’s important to take a look at what we’re teaching our kids by the actions we take and what we consider acceptable behavior.
If a child is driven door to door so they can accumulate as much candy as possible, what is the value being reinforced? If we allow them to trick or treat at 16 years old, what lesson do they take away from that? What do they learn when we’re okay with them trading out one costume for another so they can hit the same houses two or three times? And what do they learn if we drive them to a better area for trick or treating?
Parents have many opportunities each day to teach children the values they’d like them to leave home with. Often parents want to take a break during the holidays but these are the lessons that really stick with kids.
Prior to this holiday season, consider the values you’d like to gift your children with and think of what traditions will best convey them. If you value simplicity and community, the holidays will look much different than if you value abundance and competition. It’s also important to take into consideration cultural norms. It’s hard enough being a kid without feeling left out or ostracized.
Working with them to problem solve and allowing them to help brainstorm solutions is a tremendous gift that will serve them well as adults. Show them the budget for Halloween and other upcoming holidays. Let them help you work within it.
Values aren’t right or wrong, but life moves along more smoothly when your activities reflect your values. And that’s true for your children as well. A lot of fighting and disappointment happens when values and activities are mis-matched. Children get confused and act in ways consistent with the behaviors we allow and not the values we feel are important. Worst of all, children don’t take the legacy of those values along with them into adulthood.
We’ve gotten so caught up in the entitlement mentality that we’re seeing kids really struggle with debt and misery as they move into early adulthood. Helping them work through injustices and unfairness – as well as problem solving – is sometimes more important than actually solving the injustice. It is likely that as adults our kids will need to live within their means, deal with an unfair situation at work or not be able to keep up with the Jones’s.