*2015 update: This article was written by a prior author of Over the Big Moon. She is no longer contributing to this website. Out of respect for her and of the experience she and her family had, any emails sent to Over the Big Moon from the media in regards to this article will not be answered. Thanks for your understanding.*
It’s true. We have cancelled Christmas in our house this year. Well. at least the version of Christmas our boys have been focusing on.
Let me explain. We have not cancelled putting up decorations, celebrating the birth of our Savior, or any of our other heartwarming traditions. But, we have cancelled presents, Santa, and stockings. Their letters to Santa this year will be asking Santa to find someone who needs their presents more.
Here is why – John and I feel like we are fighting a very hard uphill battle with our kids when it comes to entitlement. It is one of the biggest struggles as a parent these days in middle class America. Our kids have been acting so ungrateful lately. They expect so much even when their behavior is disrespectful. We gave them good warning, either it was time for their behavior to change or there would be consequences. We patiently worked with them for several months and guess what, very little changed. One day after a particularly bad display of entitlement John said, “we should just cancel Christmas.” And, so that’s what we did.
Instead we will be taking the money we would have spent on presents and put it towards service projects and giving gifts to others this season. We are trying to teach them the pleasure of giving rather than continuing to feed their childhood desire for more.
The first project we did this season was to hold a clothing driving in our neighborhood. We gathered gently used clothing, sorted them, and packaged them up to send to a village in Northern Cebu of the Philippines. The village was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan last year. Then the kids wrote letters and found hard candy from their Halloween stash that we could ship to the kids in the village. It was awesome! Instead of being sad over giving up their Halloween candy they were excited and kept wanting to give more and more. After we had the boxes all packaged up we mailed them. The kids loved it! It was a lot of money to ship and they understand that they gave up having something, so they could give these clothes to others.
We also ordered a couple of these 12 piece Nativity sets.
We will be choosing two families for the 12 days of Christmas. Each day we will deliver a different piece of the nativity. On Christmas day we will give them the last piece of the nativity, baby Jesus. We have a free set of printables for the Nativity countdown here. That will be 12 nights of fun memories we will be making trying to deliver the pieces without getting caught. We are also looking into an Adopt a Grandparent program. For Christmas dinner we have invited several older widows and couples in our area that don’t have family around to eat with us.
See what I mean? How cool will this Christmas be! Instead of focusing on what they will be getting, we will be keeping the focus on what they can give!
The few presents they get from Grandparents and other families members will be more cherished because the quantity will be less. They can enjoy what they get rather than feel overstimulated with so much. Christmas morning won’t be less special without Santa coming. Instead we can enjoy our Cinnamon rolls, play games as a family, and truly enjoy the few presents they did get. There is a good possibility that Santa will be writing them a letter of how proud of them he is and perhaps put a few pieces of hard candy and an orange in their stockings. We have Santa Stationary that is free for download.
I really think that we as parents need to take a step back and look at our motivation for giving gifts to our kids. Obviously we enjoy giving to our kids. That is not bad! But, have we gone too far? I have had so many people say to me, “This is such a good idea, but I don’t think I could do it.” Which was so true with my husband and I! I think we were more disappointed than our kids when we cancelled Christmas. How often are kids threaten that Santa won’t come if kids are naughty…. yet have you ever heard of anyone that really followed through on that threat? That is where the entitlement comes from. We continue to give our children things even when their behavior doesn’t warrant it, simply because we as parents don’t want to live with the consequences.
That is why we have taken a stand this year. 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. The feeling of kindness and giving are what give Christmas its magic. I am excited that our kids get to focus on that feeling. I am almost certain this will be the best Christmas they ever have!
Updated to add:
I just wanted to clarify a couple of things. First, my kids are in no way hurting for things. It’s not like I took Christmas away from Tiny Tim here folks. They have good clothes, shoes, and so many toys they can’t keep their playroom clean. They are not sad about what we have done! They have reacted by making gifts for each other and sneaking them into each others stockings. They are learning exactly what we wanted them to learn, because they are not moping around feeling sorry for themselves. They are thinking of others.
The second thing I wanted to clarify is why I wrote this post. Some people seem to think I wrote this for attention. Ummm, the attention you get from posts like this is not good and actually extremely difficult to handle. Right now there is a whole thread, not only ripping me apart as a mother, but also ripping my kids to shreds. The reason I wrote this post is I want to empower parents to feel like it’s okay to take a stand. I think half of the reason we as parents are afraid to take a stand, is because we don’t want our kids to feel like they have the mean parents. I wanted to share what we are doing, so any parents that feel they are struggling with the same issues in their home can see what others are doing and get ideas for their family. My intention is to help support other parents and to raise amazing kids. Unfortunately we had to close the comments. There were too many people who were not being respectful to our family and also other commenters.
I wrote a follow up to this post on December 15th about how our month is going and also my response to the all the craziness surrounding our decision. You can read my response here.
You can also read the follow up on how our Christmas morning went here.