"Trick or treat!" It's the famous Oct. 31 line that signals adults to drop candy in the bag of a costumed child, right? But, if you don't want to be the Halloween version of Scrooge, don't make kids say "trick or treat" in order to get candy. You may think that bucking this particular tradition sounds crazy, but there are several rational reasons why some kids may not utter the phrase when they come knocking on your door, and you should absolutely give them candy regardless.
Allow me to set the scene for you, so that you can put yourself in the shoes of a shy child on Halloween night for just a moment. Your parents picked you up from school where you've had no choice but to interact with your classmates and teachers for an entire eight hours. You're exhausted, but excited about the candy you know is coming. Back at home, you put on your superhero costume (complete with a mask that completely hides your face from view, obv) that you picked out yourself and have been patiently waiting to wear for weeks now. You're nervous about knocking on a stranger's door, but your mom told you that she's so proud of you for trying, and reminds you that you're going to get a ton of candy out of this exchange.
Out and about with kids running amok all around, you nervously approach the first house and adjust your mask before hesitantly knocking on the door. A friendly face opens the door and you confidently open your treat bag to snag some loot. Suddenly, the stranger at the door asks, "What do you say?" and you freeze. It took every bit of strength you had to get to this point, and you just can't muster up one more ounce of courage to say the "magic words." You are absolutely crushed that all of your hard work to get here isn't cutting it.
And that's just the night of a child struggling with shyness or social anxiety — which can be crippling as an adult — so just imagine what it might feel like for a child.
As unsettling as that scenario might be, it barely even scratches the surface of the potential reasons why a child might not say "trick or treat" at your door. Maybe the child is non verbal. Maybe they have autism. Maybe there is a reason they are not mentally able to grasp the concept of the exchange that you're seeking. They could have experienced a traumatic Halloween night in the past and this is the first time they're venturing out again. You. Just. Never. Know.
Please don't assume that the child knocking on your door has the ability to say the words "trick or treat," because you don't know what sort of situation has led to the moment that they knocked on your door. They likely won't be wearing a sign explaining their inability to communicate, and frankly, they shouldn't have to.
If you're not the type of person to have some empathy and understand what might have transpired to cause a child the inability to say "trick or treat," here's another thing for you to keep in mind — it's really none of your business. As a parent, the onus is on me to teach my child to say "trick or treat" (and "thank you" for that matter, but that's a whole other story) if they are able or to help them make the best of their Halloween night if they're not able for whatever reason. That reason is none of your business.
Look, I get it. The traditional exchange of a "trick" for a "treat" is at the heart of what Halloween is about. However, when a child (yes, let that sink in — they're just children) comes knocking on your door on Halloween night, just give them the freaking candy. They'll either say those three little words, or they won't. You never know what kind of obstacles that child faced just to get to that point and how your reaction might impact them.