Christmas is fast approaching – a bit too fast this year for anyone’s liking, right? Why is Instagram already filled with photos of decorated Christmas trees and elves? Christmas means it’s time for society to start to threaten kids with Santa with the prospect of no presents.
Yep, apparently we all want Christmas to be magic for our kids, but we also seem to want to use the promise of Christmas presents as a way of manipulating them for the whole of December.
In my family, Christmas is a time of wonder. Father Christmas is a lovely fellow who brings presents to all the kids on Christmas Day. All of them, everyone.
There’s no mention of a naughty list or the threat of a lump of coal in a stocking on Christmas morning. Christmas joy is unconditional and everybody gets to enjoy it.
The only problem is, the rest of society isn’t on board with my parenting style.
My daughter has already announced her teacher might have to tell Father Christmas if the class doesn’t behave.
Please Don’t Threaten Kids With Santa This Christmas
We can barely walk down the street in December without an elderly stranger stopping us to ask whether my daughter has been good this year (a bit creepy, right?).
I’ve even heard people in the street speak to kids they don’t even know, and threaten them with Father Christmas in an attempt to change their behaviour. And, of course, it works. The kids run sheepishly to their parents and the interfering adult smugly thinks they’ve done a great job ‘helping out’.
Nobody wants parenting help from a stranger in the street. By all means, stop by to tell me I’m doing a great job. Congratulate me on handling a difficult situation beautifully. Or compliment my kids.
But don’t step in and do the parenting for me, and definitely don’t threaten my kids with a disappointing Christmas.
What Is ‘Good’ Anyway?
Society has an obsession with kids being ‘good’. I was first asked, by a stranger, whether my daughter was good when she was two weeks old. Since then I’ve been asked hundreds of times.
These days it’s not about whether or not she sleeps through the night, it’s about how she behaves. Are any kids well behaved all of the time? Are yours? Tell me your secrets! Kids are kids, right?
Sometimes they’re awesome little human beings you want to hang out with, and other times you pretend to be sick so you can have five minutes away from them.
It’s Asking Too Much
I think my daughter is pretty well behaved. She’s kind and compassionate and she says thank you a lot – but she isn’t perfect. And I don’t really think I can expect her to be, at such a young age.
She certainly wouldn’t be able to be ‘good’ for the whole month of December. Especially when you consider the hype and excitement that build up during this period.
Kids have about as much chance of getting through December without ‘making bad choices’ as I do of maintaining my weight over Christmas.
It’s Short-Term Parenting
I want my kids to behave, of course I do, but I want them to behave because they see the value in behaving.
And I want them to be kind because they value the feelings of others. I don’t want them to act like angels because they want to get presents at Christmas.
I want them to do good things for others, not for themselves. And I want them to be driven by an intrinsic desire to be pleasant, not an extrinsic desire to get presents.
If you parent in December by threatening to cancel Christmas, what happens in January? What’s left in your parenting toolbox once Christmas is over?
I Don’t Want Them To Be Scared Of Father Christmas
Father Christmas, Santa, St Nick… whatever you want to call him, he’s a nice guy. He’s a kind guy who just wants to bring a little joy to kids on Christmas Day. He isn’t a threat, he isn’t unkind, and he wouldn’t leave a child out.
I don’t want my kids growing up scared of Father Christmas. They shouldn’t have to cover their tracks when they misbehave in the hope he won’t find out. I want them to be honest, to admit their mistakes and to know that they are loved (by me and Father Christmas) regardless.
There’s Usually A Reason Why Kids Make Bad Choices
There’s no such thing as a naughty kid. There are children who are struggling with feeling disconnected from their parents; there are kids who are scared for their future; there are kids who are tired and grumpy, but they’re not bad kids.
Immediately whipping out the Santa threat might force your child into line, but it won’t help you get to the bottom of the problem.
I would rather reach out and connect with my kids and try to work out what’s really going on. Ok, it might take more effort and it might take a little longer, but it should make us all a little happier.
What I’ll Say If You Threaten Kids With Santa
When my daughter came home from school and said the teacher was going to tell Father Christmas if the class didn’t behave, I told my daughter that was silly. I told her Father Christmas gives presents to every single child, and he wouldn’t leave anybody out.
I’ll be repeating this line throughout December as more and more people ask my daughter whether she’s been ‘good’.
This year, instead of asking my daughter whether she’s going to end up on Santa’s good list, why not talk to her about something else entirely? You could ask her what she wants for Christmas, or what she’s most excited about when it comes to Christmas.
Why not ask her what she’s having for Christmas dinner, or whether she’s been to see Father Christmas yet? You could ask her if she’s giving anything away this Christmas or whether she likes mince pies.
Just please, please don’t ask her if she’s been ‘good’ or tell her she’s going to end up on the ‘naughty list’.
The University of the Sunshine Coast senior lecturer in psychology Dr Rachael Sharman said “parents shouldn’t worry about telling their children that Santa is real if they’re still under 12”. “Believing in things that grown-ups don’t is a perfectly normal part of childhood, from fairies in the garden to monsters under the bed, believing in joy and goodwill is not a negative thing”.
Research suggests children don’t start to develop adult notions of logic, cause and effect, the difference between fantasy and reality, until around the age of 12, Dr Sharman said.