The problem with Halloween


13 years ago, I learned the best idea about parenting before I even had kids.

I used to work for Bose. They are a company in Massachusetts that makes amazing stereos and headphones.

One of the markets we would try to sell to is college graduates. We wanted  the 23-year old who got their first real check to buy one of our stereos but we had a problem.

Sony started talking to that 23-year old when they were 6.

Sony sold them a pink stereo in the first grade.

Sony sold them a Playstation 3 at age 13.

Sony sold them headphones at age 15.

So by the time we showed up at 23 to sell them a stereo there was a sense of “Who are you? I’ve never met you before.”

Sony essentially had a 17-year head start on us. If someone took karate for 17 years before you did, they are going to crush you.

The problem with this principle is that a lot of times we parents give pop culture a huge head start with our kids.

We let the world start the conversation, let celebrities drive their dreams, and let society define their values.

Then at age 15 we show up in their life and wonder why they’re lost.

As a dad of two daughters, this cartoon about Halloween by @AndyMarlette bums me out because most of us are too busy to respond with the truth. We miss the “store aisle” conversation with our kids because we think if we don’t have the conversation it won’t happen.

Here’s the truth though:

It’s not whether your kids will have a conversation about the world they live in, it’s whether you’ll have a voice in it.

It’s time to start talking with our kids.

Earlier than we want.

More often than we like.

Don’t give the world a head start with your kids.

If you’re a parent and want more ideas like, sign up for my parent’s list.

  • David Mike
    Posted at 06:21h, 05 October Reply

    In this cartoon, it seems as if the girl has wandered into the adult section of costumes. How sad. So true, the battle against culture is an uphile one. As a father of three daughters, this is concerning. Althought the voice they hear from us is sometimes annoying to them, they hear it and will remember it when raising their own children. We have had candid discussions about modesty and beauty from within. A heart is more important than the shell covering it.

  • Jeremy A. Walker
    Posted at 07:11h, 05 October Reply

    You are absolutely right about the conversation that children/adolescents/students are having. The discussion is ongoing and it is forming the worldview to which this generation will likely ascribe. We (parents, teachers, pastors, ministers, mentors, etc.) must gently make our way into that discussion and create opportunities where an alternative worldview is discussed. Not to impose ours on theirs, only to open dialogue into alternatives that can help shape that worldview by reality instead of consumer culture.

  • Cindy
    Posted at 09:09h, 05 October Reply

    This is such an important post Jon. Thank you for putting it out there. I’ve witnessed this with so many families and as parents, it’s so easy to just turn on the television and let them sit in front of it for hours on end. Parenting is a full time job.

  • Jon Pinney
    Posted at 09:30h, 05 October Reply

    God says some amazing things through you! 🙂 Our product, Cradle for the King, where Christmas begins, can help parents start those conversations while their children are still young.

  • Zahra
    Posted at 09:39h, 05 October Reply

    My problem with Halloween is that all year we tell ou kids don’t eat what a stranger gives u… Don’t take things from strangers… Don’t go to strangers houses… And when Halloween comes along west our kids do all this just because society tells then too!

  • Jessica
    Posted at 10:09h, 05 October Reply

    Amen to this! I’m going to give double candy to the first little girl who shows up on my doorstep dressed like a lawyer, an engineer or an astronaut. (Or little boy, we are an equal opportunity household).

  • Donna
    Posted at 10:22h, 05 October Reply

    What an important post – thank you for it. The social constructs of gender are so harmful to our kids of both genders. Especially the sexualization of girls. Parents need to participate in the conversations with their kids, and not let culture tell our kids who they are or should be.

  • Alexis Lockhart
    Posted at 10:48h, 05 October Reply

    We make our own costumes. My boys (3 of them) pick what they want to be from their heads, not something out of the store. I even do the same. The things they come up with are amazing and its a fun project we get to do together instead of spending more money for stuff they will only use once and then will collect dust. They have MUCH better ideas than the ‘creators’ of all those costumes too!

  • kari
    Posted at 11:12h, 05 October Reply

    Oh, this is so true, on so many more levels than halloween. I’ve found that as a mom of teens, it’s not just one conversation either. Like you said, it’s over and over and over. Unfortunately for me (and my love of comfort and ease) being a parent requires a lot of uncomfortable conversations repeatedly. I think Dave Ramsey once said “when you see your kids almost mocking you–“ya, ya, mom, I know…” then they may have STARTED to get it.” Thanks for the reminder.

  • Baking nuts
    Posted at 12:34h, 05 October Reply


  • Sarah
    Posted at 14:21h, 05 October Reply

    My first thought at the cartoon was I was lucky my mom made awesome costumes and when I wanted to be He-Man at 5 or 6 she went all out even making muscles. Then again when I was a kid I played with action figures and my little pony, a toy was a toy and I didn’t care who the product was selling to. I don’t remember having any conversation about sex or any adult topic as a kid/teen but knew if I had questions my parents would have answered with the truth.

  • Michelle Lyon
    Posted at 14:49h, 05 October Reply

    This is spot on.

    *high five*

  • Laura Harris
    Posted at 16:02h, 05 October Reply

    This post is awesome. I just shared it everywhere. Thank you for helping me be a better parent today than I was yesterday. It’s a selfish request, but keep up the good work. 🙂

    • Laura Harris
      Posted at 16:04h, 05 October Reply

      That last sentence bombed. I meant to say I selfishly want you to keep writing great content so I can learn more from you.

  • Mike Blaylock
    Posted at 16:43h, 05 October Reply

    Now that I have a child, this is way too relevant. Good stuff, Jon.

  • pat
    Posted at 19:20h, 05 October Reply

    Hey Jon, touche, however, “sooner than we want,” “more often than we’d like,”to me that shouldn’t be advice we need to give a parent, that should be something we as parents should look forward to doing all the time, every time…I certainly know I do, and our son is 26.

  • Erica
    Posted at 22:52h, 05 October Reply

    LOVE LOVE LOVE. So true. Thank you for the reminder!

  • CrystalClear
    Posted at 07:35h, 06 October Reply

    I fear that they are marketing to moms and dads and not toddlers. There is a demand for this or they wouldn’t supply the costumes. The idea that some parents are intentionally dressing their children in sexy costumes frightens me more than Halloween.

  • Em Marlas
    Posted at 10:15h, 06 October Reply

    Spot on! It’s not just Halloween costumes. I confiscated a phone during a class break from a 10 year old because she was showing another girl videos on the internet. This same little girl swore in class a couple of times, and when I pulled her out to talk to her, she told me that she couldn’t see why people get so uptight over the “F” word and other swearing- they’re just words. They don’t hurt anyone. She also informed me that she was mature for her age, and had ridden her bicycle two miles (they live in the country) to the local pub, alone, and sat there with the owner at a table in the corner. The mother was not concerned when I talked to her about this.
    This little girl was always in trouble at school, too. Big surprise!

    You are so right. It’s time parents quit letting electronics and pop culture raise their children. (Or expecting teachers to do it.) Parental love and discipline are key.

  • Iryssa
    Posted at 15:47h, 06 October Reply

    I make my kids’ Halloween costumes now! There is pretty much no upside whatsoever anymore as far as the actual spending of money is concerned, but keeping them out of those aisles is priceless.

  • John Sellers
    Posted at 12:21h, 07 October Reply

    Having a daughter I know how tough this can be. It’s not easy raising kids, especially girls, in this world.

  • Holly Frye
    Posted at 17:45h, 10 October Reply

    But that conversation has to be TWO WAY! You can’t just get all preachy and say “look how awful that is” because that is the second your teen is going to get curious about it. Say- “what do you think about that?” and honesty listen. Otherwise we run the risk of eventually driving them TOWARD the very thing we try to protect them from.

  • Delilah
    Posted at 11:22h, 14 October Reply

    Great article! So true! Thank you for sharing.

  • Debra
    Posted at 14:38h, 27 October Reply

    We have 2 little boys, and since the oldest is only 2 and a bit, this is our 3rd Halloween. My husband is super creative so we have way more fun making costumes than buying them. This year? He’s transforming the stroller into a School Bus, and my 2 yr old is so excited to be a school bus driver. (Plus, mommy, daddy & little brother get to be the people on the bus which means, ‘cop out’ no costumes! haha!)

    The only “problem” is we set the bar too high. When he was 4 months old, we put a blue onesie & a blue hat on him, sewed on white eyes and a zig-zag mouth – then made a cut out of Pac-Man and stuck it to the infant car seat. Sad little blue ghost, pac-man got him. 🙂

  • Crielismi
    Posted at 14:42h, 30 October Reply

    I have two daughters, ages 15 and 12. I have always had the talk with them about their attire choices. Luckily both girls have a conservative approach now. When picking out Halloween costumes this year my youngest was able to find a flapper outfit that was not overly revealing. The older girl however found it impossible to find anything tactful in women’s sizes at the costume store. It was very frustrating as a mother to see how “sexy” has taken over even an innocent childhood day of celebration. We finally found a vampiress outfit that covered all but some leg, which she will wear tights or leggings with. It would be nice if women could be characters that didn’t have their breasts hanging out, but until women and parents stop buying those things the market will continue to produce them. It’s people that drive demand, so in many ways, it’s our own fault.

  • Mark Griffin
    Posted at 15:55h, 30 October Reply

    You definitely need to have the talk. As a father of two girls. (now college women aged 20 and 19) and a 17 year old son, I can tell you that as parents we sometimes get so hung up on our children respecting us, we neglect to teach them to respect themselves. I used to say God gives you only what you can handle and he knew we couldn’t handle much, so he gave us great kids. Actually he gave us the guidelines and my wife and I worked really hard to raise the kids in a positive way. The work you put in pays off though! And not to be a downer, but wait until you try to buy a prom/homecoming dress that goes lower than the upper thigh…better luck finding Bigfoot.

  • Troy
    Posted at 21:48h, 30 October Reply

    Very insightful and helpful post for parents and the church.

  • Bill Kracke
    Posted at 16:33h, 25 October Reply

    This is not meant as a Jesus juke.

    You don’t have to have daughters to be offended by this trend.

    You don’t need to be female to be offended by this trend.

    Your kids don’t have to be girls to have this conversation.

    I have had to ask myself this very difficult question about this and similar issues: Why did this not offend me until I had a daughter? Why was I blind to it before then?

    I am fully on-board with your message here, I am also wrestling with some of the underlying issues that allow things like this to perpetuate.

  • Wendy D
    Posted at 17:19h, 25 October Reply

    Yes. To have a voice in their conversation, YES!

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