For parents, Christmas is always a stressful time: how to satisfy the child’s desires without spoiling them and giving them the impression that they deserve to receive whatever they want, just because their decibel level exceeds the parents’ level of calm and patience.

Getting the children Christmas presents is like buying a ticket to the lottery. There is no guarantee it will be a winning ticket and you only get to see the results after you buy it. You may have nailed it this year, or maybe it would have been better to apply the other method you were thinking about. John and Lisa Henderson from Utah, USA, also played in such a lottery.

For several months before Christmas, the parents tried to get their three boys, aged 5, 8, and 11, to review their disrespectful behaviour and give up the idea that they deserved everything. The first tactic: patience and calm explanations. Result: nothing changed. The second tactic: cancel Christmas.

What exactly does this mean? The Christian family planned to continue celebrating Christmas as an event of the Lord’s birth, and the children would continue to receive gifts from relatives and friends, but not from their parents. Instead, the family used the money they would have spent on the boys’ gifts for humanitarian purposes.

“It’s not like our children suffer from a lack of toys,” Lisa wrote on the Over the Big Moon blog. Although the attitude of the couple has been criticized by other parents, who called them “Scrooges”, after the stingy character in Dickens’s Christmas Story, these parents tried to give their children gifts that are more important for the development of their characters than any toys, even educational ones.

The first gift is that of consequence. How many times do parents tell their children there will be consequences if they do not behave? And how often do those threats turn into reality? Not often enough. These empty threats, which only appeal to fear, manage to convince the children that they can adopt negative behaviours because, in the end, nothing will happen to them. The child learns that the parent is not trustworthy and can be manipulated.

The second gift is of perspective. The Hendersons knew that their boys had many things to be grateful for: good food, family, and more toys than they could count. Instead, they needed perspective, and that’s what they received. The family used Santa’s money to make a collection of clothes to send to the victims of the Haiyan Typhoon in the Philippines.

The third gift is that of imagination. The children did not waste any time on feeling sorry for themselves. In addition to helping their parents organize the mission for the Philippines, the boys began making gifts for each other, which they could place under the Christmas tree. “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,” says Lisa.

The fourth gift is that of family. Instead of a race to see what gifts Santa has brought, that year’s Christmas focused on family time, fun games, faith, and the opportunity to truly enjoy the gifts they will receive from their grandparents. It was not Christmas that was cancelled in this family, but consumerist Christmas.

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