• The Art of Encouraging Good Behavior in Children

    Posted on July 29, 2014 by Darcy in Crib Notes, Parenting.

    Or… Christmas in July!

    I have always been a massive fan of Christmas – the Christmas lights, the warmth of the holiday despite the cold outside, the gathering of friends and family, that sum total cozy, gooey feeling that being with your loved ones around the holidays gives you. And then, of course, there’s Santa Claus…

    Now to be clear, I’m not some Santa fetishist. I haven’t thought much about Santa Claus since I was a little girl – that fat, jolly man, squeezing his way down chimneys with a sack full of presents for good little girls and boys. First you discover that Santa is not, in fact, real, and is, in fact, your parents, and then you discover that Christmas becomes an excuse for mom to get you those new socks you have been needing. I must admit that for about 20 years I had completely lost sight of the magic of Santa Claus. Until the last year, that is…


    Yes, that’s right, Santa is magic, and I am a true believer in his magic, even now in July. And you should be, too. (Well, that is if you have a highly impressionable, somewhat gullible, preschool-aged child, who responds really well to bribery.) I learned very quickly with my then three-year-old son this past Christmas that leading up to the holiday season, Santa is a wonderful tool to get your child to behave. And “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” is about the most ingenious song ever written to make threatening your child sound gentle and friendly. Let me demonstrate:

    “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I’m telling you why!” No seriously, dude, Christmas is like a month from now and Mom, errr, Santa still hasn’t decided whether you’re going to get the new scooter you’ve been begging for, so seriously with the crying. Stop. Now. Seriously.

    “He’s making his list, he’s checking it twice, he’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice!” Yup, that’s right. Santa keeps a list, we’re going to call it the Naughty List from now on, and every time you push your brother or snatch a toy from him, Santa puts you back on that list. You only get off after a probationary period of exceptionally good behavior. You don’t want to be on the list, do you??

    And my favorite part: “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” Yes, my friend, that’s correct. Santa can see you even when I am not in the room. This is what we call ‘Christmas Magic.’ So, seriously, don’t even think about whatever you were going to do if you want a prayer at getting that scooter.

    But then Christmas happened, and all of my threats about Santa were erased from his memory as soon as he unwrapped that beloved scooter sitting under the tree. And I thought darn, well there goes that trick. Until this past week, that is…

    Earlier this week, my sons were taking a bath and I stepped out of the bathroom for a minute to grab fresh towels when I heard a loud yell and my toddler started bawling. I ran back into the bathroom and my older son sat next to my toddler with a look of guilt plastered across his face.

    Me: What happened.
    Him: Nothing! He fell! He fell and bumped his butt!
    Me: Is that what happened?
    Him 2: Waaahhhhhhhh!!! (pointing at his brother)
    Him: (silence)
    Me: Should I give a call and ask Santa? (Where did I pull this old standby out of??)
    Him: NOOOOOOO! NO DON’T CALL SANTA. I POURED WATER ON HIS HEAD! SANTA, DON’T PUT ME ON THE NAUGHTY LIST! (this last part was directed up to the heavens. I think I have some explaining to do…)

    You see, son, Santa is around and watching even in the summer!

    You see, son, Santa is around and watching even in the summer!

    Holy crap, it is six months (six months!) until Christmas and my son is already scared sh-tless of the naughty list. Santa is magic, people. I think the people who start advertising for Christmas earlier and earlier every year must also have preschool-aged children.

    Today as my children were tousling over some toy in our livingroom my older son shouted out into the ether, “Santa! He is hitting me! Do you see this Santa?” Too bad for my older son (and too bad for me) that my toddler hasn’t quite reached the age where the Santa threat works on him. But I know it’s only a matter of time until my toddler also discovers the magic of Christmas, and I may be able to successfully encourage good behavior in both my sons.

11 Responses so far.

  1. 6 months! yikes. my oldest is 11 and doesn’t believe anymore but we still have fun with santa.

  2. Maggie says:

    I do this year round. But, my 10 year old is now on the fence about whether Santa is indeed real. Sigh. It was a good run.

  3. teresa mccluskey says:

    I always tell my daughters Santa, Mommy, and Daddy have a weekly appointment! We talk about the Great, Good and bad moments of the week! And I buy a few toys here and there and tell them Santa is picking them up during our meeting!

  4. Nicole says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I LOVE it! I usually hold off on the Santa threats until like October BUT I may have to pull this one out on an really bad day!

  5. Kung says:

    that is great.. i really do not like the holidays but i put on a happy face for the kids..

  6. Sojourner says:

    How funny. Keep the holiday spirit going all year with Santa’s secret eye 🙂

  7. Joy says:

    Have you ever thought that it’s far better to teach children to be kind and good all year instead of threatening them? Teach them how it feels when they are being kind and obedient – verbal rewards will last much longer.

  8. Janet says:

    LOL, I do the same, Santas on my speeddial!

  9. Sara says:

    What?!?! Santa is not, in fact, real?!?! ;-D

  10. Robin says:

    I start threatening my kids with the old “santa is watching” in October. Works like a charm.

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