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I recently wrote this:

"Halloween: the one day where we encourage children to accept candy from strangers, go to strangers' homes, and vandalize property and terrorize people if they don't get their own way."

Original quote by Yvette Colomb

I spend a frantic time drumming into my 13 year old son's head every Halloween, not to participate in egging (throwing eggs at) houses. And how it's criminal to deface property and harass people, even if he's caught in a group, he can get into trouble, without having done anything himself; as the peer pressure can be great at this age.

How on earth can I teach my children anything positive from the whole Halloween culture?

It feels like an anti-parenting, anti-social activity.


edit

I thought I should add this about the culture of Halloween here:

It's only newish (in Australia) and they just knock on the door and expect a hand out. I'm noticing the boys are murmuring more and more about egging houses. Not good. And now that my son is older, they are unaccompanied, it's the only time I let him out on a school night with a group of teenage boys.. not happy.

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Update, my daughter came home and exclaimed she wants to egg houses! And my son cam home late and says, we don't really go trick or treating, it's just an excuse to hang out with friends. Sorry that's the last Halloween they go on. –  user4784 Oct 31 '13 at 11:03
    
I suggest reading "Free-Range Kids" by Leonore Skenazy (I think) She has a whole chapter about just this issue and it is a book that - while controversial when it came out - really does have some sound thought in it. –  balanced mama Oct 31 '13 at 12:40
    
@balancedmama really about Halloween?? I am not the sort of mum that makes them wear shoes all the time (I grew up bare foot in Australia) .. it's just this one thing I'm really anti.. I feel very uneasy about the whole thing –  user4784 Oct 31 '13 at 12:45
    
@balancedmama omg!! freerangekids.com –  user4784 Oct 31 '13 at 12:56
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You are not alone Skippy! especially given the circumstances in your particular neighborhood, but I really do suggest reading the chapter. I've also opened up a related question, I will answer tonight - if no one else answers with the same info I would give - about teaching kids about strangers in general. –  balanced mama Oct 31 '13 at 12:57

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

My kids aren't old enough for this situation yet, but I like how my parents handled it. Part of the problem is the child needs the skills to stand up to an authority figure, in this case a peer with a forceful personality. You also have the dilemma that you want them to make good choices, but you also want them to feel free to tell you about difficult choices they faced, and the mistakes they made. In other words, if you clamp down too hard, they end up going behind your back.

When I was a teen, I found I didn't enjoy some situations other teens put me in. What my parents recognized, to their credit, is that what I needed most was an escape plan for when I found myself in a situation that was getting out of hand. Some parts of that escape plan were:

  • Giving me express permission to let them be the bad guy. "I really need to leave, because my Mom will kill me if she finds out."
  • Offering rides with no questions asked. They promised I wouldn't get in trouble if I called them for a ride home.
  • Asking the big 3 questions, and making me call if any of them changed. Where was I going, who was I going with, and when would I be back. My friends got used to me calling when plans changed, so if the plan changed to something I wasn't comfortable with, it was easy to get out of.
  • Opening their home for alternate activities. We lived in a tiny two-bedroom trailer, but we had some fun parties there, because my parents made it available to me. If friends planned a night of egging, I could invite them to my house instead.

My siblings complained that I seemed to get away with a lot, but it was because I took advantage of the escape plans offered to me.

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thank you! you reminded me, I told my son to use me as an excuse, My mum will kill me if I get involved in.. that was our line.. and he didn't have his phone on him, so I couldn't contact him.. –  user4784 Oct 31 '13 at 16:03

In the UK we let kids of all ages go trick or treating - when young a parent will accompany them but only to the end of driveways etc, and as they get older they will head out in groups with their peers.

Typically they need to sing, tell a joke, or otherwise entertain the householder in order to get a treat of some kind, but there is certainly no culture of vandalism or defacement here if they don't get what they want.

I see the activity as a very useful part of growing up for the following reasons:

  • a little bit of being scared is good for children. They like the fright, knowing they can run away
  • getting over stage fright and being able to speak to (or sing to) complete strangers (or at least neighbours) is useful confidence training
  • it is fun and exciting, and more importantly, away from parents - even if only a few metres away

It is a very social activity, and to my mind, a useful parenting experience. Especially when my kids were younger, they would go out quite early and then be back in the house to greet older kids later on - and would enjoy being scared by various monsters coming to the door. Now they are older, they like to plan their costumes in order to scare others.

(I do think the tired old adage, "Don't talk to strangers," is very misguided. It teaches children the wrong concept of threats)

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As an aside, my 11 year old daughter decided to dress as Kat von D for Halloween. That's pretty scary! –  Rory Alsop Oct 31 '13 at 8:55
    
My daughter and her best friend dressed up as geeks lol.. But here it's only newish (Australia) and they just knock on the door and expect a hand out. I'm noticing the boys are murmuring more and more about egging houses. Not good. And now that he's older, they are unaccompanied, the only time I let him out on a school night with a group of teenage boys.. not happy –  user4784 Oct 31 '13 at 8:58
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The kangaroo should have given the location away - sorry :-) –  Rory Alsop Oct 31 '13 at 9:08
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I wish I could +1 this more than once just for the statement about "Don't talk to strangers!!" When in trouble, strangers can actually be a great help. It is all about choosing the RIGHT strangers adn keeping distance from the wrong ones. –  balanced mama Oct 31 '13 at 12:42
    
@balancedmama would you believe there has been a man trying to abduct children into his car for the past two years in our area. All the schools put out alerts, it gets on the tv and we are so extreme about telling the kids to run from strangers and go to a busy shop or the like. It's hard isn't it and all in context... unfortunatelu –  user4784 Oct 31 '13 at 12:48

I guess the safety issues that concern me are more age related.

As halloween is over for us this year, I'd thought I'd post an answer after our experience.

  • My daughter came home and exclaimed she wants to egg houses! She is still impressionable and I need to teach her a carry through of the consequences of this type of behavior.

  • My son came home late (10pm) and says, "we don't really go trick or treating, it's just an excuse to hang out with friends." He would rather not go than have a suitable adult accompany him. It concerns me, not from my son instigating, but being caught up in a group or rowdy young teenage boys, throwing caution to the wind and creating trouble.

@Bigmomma gave me a good link and in this they advise that Halloween should be for children under 12 and supervised by an adult.

I think this is a key point. This was the first Halloween one of my children has gone out unsupervised and it was this that worried me.

Given they will be 13 and 14 next Halloween; sorry that's the last Halloween they go on until they take their children.

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In addition to Karl's ideas, when I was that age, my parents would find me a few young kids that needed a mentor to take them out so a single parent could man the door of their house. This way I could still go, but I had a responsibility to keep me out of trouble (I was pretty good with little kids and trustworthy - but it helped with peer pressure because I had a reason to say "no" to friends that wanted to pull pranks that they could understand and accept without it making me looking like a nerdy goodie - twoshoes "yeah My parents made me watch little Johnny - bummer" –  balanced mama Nov 1 '13 at 0:19

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