Utah parents cancel Christmas, spark debate

Posted at 3:23 PM, Dec 04, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-05 08:56:07-05

John and Lisa Henderson's decision to cancel Christmas gift-giving for their children has brought the couple a wave of attention.

In an interview with "Good Morning America" correspondent Abbie Boudreau, the Hendersons of Hurricane, Utah, explained why their three sons would not get any presents this Christmas.

"They had been acting up quite a bit, and weren't very grateful for the things they had," Lisa said of 11-year-old Caleb, 8-year-old Davis and 5-year-old Beckham.

John and Lisa said they'd been fighting an uphill battle with their three sons, saying the boys' recent behavior had been disrespectful and entitled.

"We would hit each other, we were fighting. Crying," Caleb said.

Time-outs weren't working, so the Hendersons took drastic measures. John, a 34-year-old civil engineering estimator, proposed that no Christmas presents be given to the children this year, and Lisa, 36, agreed.

The children's reactions were predictable. "They cried pretty hard," Lisa said.

The stay-at-home-mom wrote about the plan on her blog, Over the Big Moon, explaining that she and her husband would use the money that would have paid for their children's gifts to purchase goods for the needy.

The Nov. 24 post, titled "Why My Husband and I Cancelled Christmas," generated lots of discussion by her readers and racked up more than 350 comments.

Many of the commenters were outraged. Some accused Lisa of being "mean" and "a lazy parent," and one wrote: "Just another adult expecting a child NOT to act like a child. Great job, take the magic away and force them into reality. How dare they expect their parents to allow them to act like children who "want" things! Shame on them right? Hope you feel better about YOURSELF, because this is what this whole thing is about. Hope you don't feel "entitled" to need anything from them once they are adults."

Others, though, praised her for teaching her children about the true meaning of Christmas.

One poster wrote: "As an elementary school teacher, PLEASE believe me when I say what you did is a BLESSING for them, and will continue to help them through their lives. I can't tell you how many (maybe not rich, but certainly affluent) kids I see come through that have PLENTY and expect to get more, just because they always have! It may be "cute" at four or five, but parents don't seem to understand how UNcute it is at TWENTY-four or five (and beyond). Godspeed!"

Asked what she would say to parents who think her actions were too extreme, Lisa replied: "I think they're the people that are causing this problem. How many times do parents threaten if you're naughty no Santa will come. I never hear any parents actually follow through on that."

The children seem to be learning their lesson.

Caleb said he's learning more about what Christmas really means.

"It's not about getting what you want, it's about giving," he said.