Kids who show up shouting ‘Trick or treat!’ this Friday probably don’t really expect anyone to choose ‘trick,’ but somehow giving treats to some of the little monsters (and princesses and ghosts) has gotten controversial. Each year, there’s a spate of Facebook posts, tweets, blogs, and op-ed articles describing which trick-or-treaters do and don’t deserve to be treated. If you’ve managed to miss this tricky trend, here’s the run-down on why treating some kids is controversial — and why it shouldn’t be.
Here are five types of kids who sometimes get the short end of the stick at trick-or-treat time, and why you should treat them like any other child.
1. Big kids.
Sometimes, you’ll spot a trick-or-treater you think is just too old to be out begging for sweets. They’re starting to sprout a few hairs on their upper lips, their voices break when they talk and they’re taller than any of the other kids they’re trailing behind.
Huffington Post writer Marion Franck addressed treat-giver who encounter these kids, talking about how easy it is to write them off as ‘too big,’ and why you shouldn’t.
“That night I was reminded that parents are not the only ones who regret the passing years.”
Growing up is hard. Letting a kid cling to the old trick-or-treat ritual for one more year isn’t teaching them to be greedy — it’s letting them enjoy childhood just one night more.
2. Heavier kids.
In 2013, a woman who wasn’t willing to give candy to kids she considered obese made headlines. According to CBS, she planned instead to send home letters, scolding the parents of the little treat-seekers for allowing them to eat candy, especially in the not-so-moderate levels seen in the post-trick-or-treat sugar frenzy.
However, studies show that this kind of fat-shaming does more harm than good, driving the sort of bad feeling, shame and discouragement that actually lead to more weight gain, instead of healthier diet and exercise habits. The Washington Post reported in September on a new study showing that being discriminated against leads to ‘comfort eating,’ which is notoriously unhealthy.
Also, unless you’re a health professional — and happen to know the medical background of the individual on your porch — you probably don’t know whether his or her diet allows for indulgences and shouldn’t be trying to make dietary decisions for that person. If you’re concerned about kids making healthy choices, you can always give out healthier treats to all of your Halloween guests.
3. Kids without costumes, or with hastily thrown-together, cheap, or partial costumes.
It may be easy to decide that kids without costumes aren’t proper trick-or-treaters and shouldn’t get candy, but this again returns to knowing an individual situation. A child may have been afraid to wear her mask or he may have only decided at the last minute that he would trick-or-treat. A family may be facing a financial crisis or a child may have worn his costume to the school party and left it on the bus. Some children with sensory processing disorders may be uncomfortable in costumes.
There’s no real point in giving a kid a hard time for not being in costume, especially when it may have taken all his courage just to walk up to your door.
4. Kids who don’t say ‘Trick-or-treat!’
This is really an extension of the previous category. Kids who don’t say their line might be stubborn and selfish, sure, but it’s more likely that they’re shy. For some kids, it’s more than shy — some are dealing with crippling anxiety, developmental disorders or other issues that make simply saying ‘Trick or treat!’ a real challenge.
Praise them for their costumes or for being brave enough to come to the door and don’t make them feel more insecure than they already do.
5. Kids from poorer neighborhoods.
Slate‘s advice column, Dear Prudence, took on the issue of poor kids trick-or-treating in wealthier neighborhoods this week. An advice-seeker wondered if it was really necessary to treat kids from other neighborhoods or if she could turn them away. Pru set her straight:
“Your whine makes me kind of wish that people from the actual poor side of town come this year not with scary costumes but with real pitchforks. Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate, and get enough candy to fill the bags of the kids who come one day a year to marvel at how the 1 percent live.”
Have a Happy Halloween, and remember, you’re not obligated to give candy (or anything) to anyone who shows up at your door. If, however, you choose to engage in the trick-or-treat ritual, don’t pick and choose which kids to treat and which to deal a nasty trick — just let them all have a night of joy.