As parents, we all desire for our children to be kind, honest, motivated, generous, and joyful. But it seems like culture imposes selfishness, discontent, materialism, and a “need” for the latest trends. How can you combat those tendencies in your children? Can you step aside from the status quo? Would you evidence your beliefs through your actions and words? I challenge you to begin this movement by implementing holidays in reverse.

Halloween

Typically children dress up in elaborate costumes on Halloween and trick or treat from door-to-door in order to receive candy. Instead of receiving sweet treats, my nieces would reverse trick or treat. They spent time baking cookies or muffins with their mom while discussing the values of generosity and thoughtfulness in contrast to selfishness. Then the little girls would hand deliver those baked goods to me, as well as their neighbors and friends. I would open up the front door expecting to hand out candy to superheros and princesses, but would instead be given a bag of goodies hand decorated with little stickers and artwork. It made me feel like a child on Halloween again! Imagine the surprise on your neighbor’s face when your kids give them a treat, too!

Christmas

Tis the season! Although Christmas is only one day (maybe two if you include Christmas Eve), it has become an entire season! At least one solid month is dedicated to celebrating Jesus’s birth, buying/wrapping/giving/receiving gifts, hosting parties, and baking cookies. This extensive time allows for a multitude of opportunities to shift your kid’s perspective within your community: volunteer at a food pantry to serve a Christmas meal to the homeless; visit the elderly who may not have family in town; donate warm clothing to the poor. I was inspired by my best friend’s reverse Christmas morning. She woke up at 3:30am, drove to thirty minutes to Nashville, Tennessee, USA, and cooked thousands of eggs for the homeless. Then she was back home by 10:30 in time for her own celebrations. It’s become a tradition for her and her husband to do this every Christmas and Easter, really allowing those to be days of service to others. I know other friends who purchase presents for children in need and hand deliver them on Christmas day. Try it with your family and watch the joy on the kid’s faces as they open up a new toy, see how they recognize that someone considered their needs, and observe the parent’s gratitude for how you used your abundance to bless others. It will make for a memorable and heart-warming Christmas morning!

Independence Day

No matter what country you live in, you likely celebrate a form of Independence day or national holiday. Engaging in a reverse independence day is wonderful way to teach your children about how your military and service workers are vital to your country’s safety and protection. While in school, I was in a flute choir and we would go perform a few military tunes for the elderly and then spend time listening to their stories. (Note: older individuals love to share their memories and you will likely be entertained by their tales!) Make handmade cards and deliver (or mail) them to the nearest Veteran’s hospital. Bake cookies or cupcakes for your local police men or firefighters. Have your children create a list of questions to ask the servicemen before you arrive, and lead by example through your conversations and questions. Spend some time learning about the branch’s of the military, their current and historical role in your country, and discuss current events (appropriate to their age and emotional level). Take advantage of the internet or your local library for resources.

Birthdays

Birthday’s are a time for your child’s family and friend’s gather to celebrate their uniqueness, growth, and the milestone’s of life. While I personally believe that it is important to teach your children how to accept attention and gifts, it is also essential to teach them balance between self and others. Reverse birthdays include still having a party and receiving gifts, but also choosing to give back. Here is where your child’s personality comes in: allow your child to donate time, items, or money to a charity of their choice. Help your child understand what they are passionate about and what organizations are out there. Consider interests like pets (rescue shelters), fashion (donating clothes to the homeless), sports (summer camps for kids in low-income areas or neighborhoods prone to gangs), education (tutoring programs), babies (pregnancy support centers or motherhood abuse shelters), etc. It’s presents an opportunity to discuss the pain, hurt, sadness, loss of hope in our world and how they can truly make a difference (even though it may seem small). Additionally, you can offer for the birthday party guests to donate to that charity as well. On another note, remember those party favor bags you got as a child at every single birthday party, complete with candy, bracelets, whistles, balls, and more trinkets? Modify that idea to give generously to your friends. I like to write a hand-written note of gratitude to each guest, and your child could specifically buy each of their party guests a small item that you know they would love (Megan would love this Frozen ring, and Bradley would like this baseball hat).

It’s important to emphasize that selfishness and attention are not bad things, but it’s helpful to balance those with selflessness and giving to others. Teach your children how to receive encouragement and kindness, which will equip them in how to treat others the same way. Perhaps adopt the recently popular idea of only receiving four gifts on holidays: “something I want, something I need, something I wear, and something I read.” Remember that reverse holidays are a valuable way to encourage generosity and kindness towards others, not a way to punish your kids or hurt them. What other holidays could you adapt in reverse?

Jana

Jana is the odd one out. Not a parent herself, she writes from the perspective of a young baby sitter. Experienced in making bedtime fun, she brings a unique perspective to parenting. She hopes that all she learns now will make the magic of being a parent just that extra bit special. She has no fixed address and is vagabonding around the globe, widening her world view.