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The Holiday Effect

Updated: Apr 2, 2018

Another holiday is here and we flood to stores to fill baskets with kids strapped in begging for more and more and more. Every year we top the last one, god-forbid they remember it and think we don't love them as much or didn't Pinterest as much or didn't do well enough to afford it. And every year our houses fill and fill and fill and if you are like me you toss and toss and toss and trust, with the amount of stuff I throw away there should really not be anything left.

But here comes the Easter bunny with this plastic eggs filled with bits of joy or trash, you be the judge. I used to try to find organic candy and natural little wax crayons for every empty space and now I buy more and more of the ones that are just decorated or painted and cannot be opened. I think- maybe the hunt is the fun. I buy 3 bags of candy and that's enough to fill half a trash bag of eggs and we all know this is going to be crawling with ants in the morning. Being shoved into mouths that skipped breakfast and set up for a day of misery- no matter how many eggs are out there or how much fun was planned.

Studies have shown us that kids learn by copying what you do, not what you say. In fact, if you say something and do it, our brain automatically stops registering. This is called the redundancy effect. If you watch a powerpoint presentation and every word that is being spoken is written on the screen, the speed in which you take it in goes down, and you don't remember any of it. For our minds to work efficiently, they must be working at full capacity. This is the principle behind concepts like Quantum Reading.

Redundancy is important because we have become the type of humans that share everything. We lecture our kids about bullying, then turn to our spouses and tell them they need to get to the gym. The study goes like this: a teacher in a classroom hands out dollar bills. A person enters to ask for donations for a cause. She donates her dollar, several students volunteer to donate theirs also. In a variation of this experiment, she does not donate. Even after asking if anyone would like to, only a tiny bit of the children donate. The second time around, she lectures the class about charity as she gives away the money. When the person enters to ask for donations and she donates hers, a smaller number of kids donate. When she lectures and does not donate, no one donates. The lesson is simple- if you say something but do the opposite, kids are more adverse to that action. If you say nothing and do something, it carries more weight. If you say it AND do it, it makes less of an impact than if you hadn't mentioned it at all. Reduncacy effect. Aside from showing that we should spend a lot less time lecturing our children and a lot more time living the lives we want them to life, this also raises an enormous amount of questions about why we celebrate the way we do.

If what we want is for them to grow up to be environmentally aware, and to be conscientious of the greater consequences of their overconsumption, why would we use that same overconsumption as a prize and celebration? We teach our kids every single day to "finish their food" (or some extension of that). You can't eat something else until you've finished what's on your plate. But come Thanksgiving, the bigger the feast, the bigger the blessing and the fact that it takes you two full days of all-you-can-eat binges to get through what should've been one meal is really just a sign of how truly lucky we are. While 12 million of our children struggle with obesity and a country 3000 miles away has people with degrees digging through trash cans for food, we turn on the cooking show with the guy getting into a giant milkshake and laugh about his getting messy when what's getting messy is our idea that gallons of milk and sugar could be better used for entertainment than for nourishment.

So maybe the amount of waste that we produce is better left unmentioned because how in the hell do you even turn that around? I am all up for starting a race I can win. In fact, you won't see me get in an argument where I know I have no shot. In this case, there is much too much to commit to. Glass bottles? Wax food wrap? Are you actually suggesting that my kids get nothing for their birthdays or for Christmas? Maybe you have room to fit one more boxed toy set on the shelve that is collecting dust. Hell, even getting in a recycling habit can be hard. But let's coin a new term that can really switch things up WWMKD- what will my kids do. Whether it's today while they hunt for unreachable expectations, or tomorrow when the next holiday hits the shelves, they are watching. And maybe it's time they learned that our love for them doesn't come gift-wrapped.

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