Meet the parents who canceled Christmas

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Editor’s note: Katia Hetter writes about travel, parenting and culture for CNN.com.

They are the parents who canceled Christmas.

John and Lisa Henderson of Hurricane, Utah, had finally had enough of their little hurricanes.

For months, the couple had been trying to teach their three boys, ages 11, 8 and 5, stop being disrespectful and acting entitled.

“We gave them good warning, either it was time for their behavior to change or there would be consequences,” wrote Lisa Henderson, co-founder of the Over the Big Moon blog, in a recent post.

“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 that’s what they did.

Santa isn’t coming to the Henderson house this year.

The family is taking the money that would have been spent on gifts and using it for service projects and helping other people.

It’s not like her children suffer from a lack of toys, Lisa Henderson wrote. The family will still decorate and celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ, and the children will still get presents from other family.

Though they’re taking some heat from critics who call them Scrooges, the gifts these parents are giving their children are so much more important than the latest popular “Star Wars” figure or electronic gadget soon relegated to the dustbin. These gifts will last a lifetime.

The gift of consequences

How many times do parents threaten to take away the television/iPad/favorite toys unless their children start to behave?

If the threats continue but there’s never any follow-through, children come to believe that there aren’t any consequences. They also learn that their parents can’t be trusted to tell the truth. And they develop a nasty habit of manipulating to get what they want.

The Henderson children will probably never doubt their parents’ word again.

The gift of perspective

Henderson knew that her children had plenty to be grateful for, including good food, a nice home and too many toys to count.

What they needed was a dose of perspective, which they got. They used the Santa money to start a clothing drive for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and ship the goods overseas. They are also considering participating in an Adopt-a-Grandparent program.

The gift of imagination

The boys aren’t sitting around feeling sorry for themselves.

Besides organizing as a family to do good works for others, the boys have responded by making gifts for each other and sneaking them into each child’s stocking.

“They are learning exactly what we wanted them to learn, because they are not moping around feeling sorry for themselves,” she wrote. “They are thinking of others.”

The gift of family

Christmas hasn’t been completely canceled in the Henderson household. What’s been canceled is an overwhelmingly commercial Christmas.

Instead of a race to the tree to see what Santa brought, the focus on Christmas morning will be on spending time together with Lisa’s cinnamon rolls, their faith, family games and the opportunity to “truly enjoy the few presents they did get” from grandparents and others.

“While this may not be the best choice for everyone, it feels right for our family right now,” she wrote. “Our kids get to focus on that feeling. I am almost certain this will be the best Christmas they ever have!”

3 comments

  • Janice Fuzy

    While my children grew up I would tell them to pick up their toys or they would go in the trash…and I would throw them away…sometimes I would make them throw their own toys away. They also knew that would be less toys they would get for Christmas. Years later when my son was in 11th grade I found out he wasn’t acting quite right in school so I warned him right there in front of his teacher that if he continued his behavior I would be sittting in his classroom. Guess he didn’t believe but that is exactly what I did the very next semester. He said I was embarrassing because of that. My reply was “I warned you…momma don’t give empty threats”. I never had to cancel Christmas in our house because I put up an invisible perimeter with my children at a very early age that they learned not to cross. If we were out shopping (grocery or non-food) and they kept asking for things I would simply say “You told me what you want now tell me what I want”…they would have to reply “Peace and quiet”…and yes they would say that without fail. They learned not to ask for things as they got older because they didn’t want to tell me what I wanted…lol. My whole point is…you have to start once they start walking and talking. And like the Hendersons follow through with your threats as long as no physical or emotional harm is threatened. My Children are now 31 and 24 years old. They know I love them because I say it. They know I will listen and not intrude in their lives except to show I am paying attention. My children will help me if needed because of how I treated them like people not just kids.

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