And once Christmas is over, what’s next? The Easter bunny?!
Christmas is fast approaching
We all want Christmas to be a magical time for our children. We all want to have peace and I understand sometimes having kids playing up, the constant noise of bickering and whining can feel like hell on earth.
We look for a quick fix.
And before we know it, the dreaded words have slipped out… ‘If you don’t listen to me RIGHT now! Father Christmas won’t be coming!”
And we might even think it works at that moment, because my friend I can tell you, it buys us a little headspace, a little peace… but it doesn’t work in quite the way we would hope for.
The problem is when behaviour becomes all tied up with the threat of no presents in order to manipulate our children during December.
The Elf on the Shelf will be making an appearance soon, for many a bit of harmless fun, for others a tool to get kids to comply. Sending Father Christmas daily reports of behaviour. – A bit creepy if you ask me!
These tools don’t do us or our children any favours. They have a nasty habit of backfiring and causing more problems.
We owe it to ourselves and our families to find better ways to get the behaviour we want.
The problem with using rewards as a parenting tool
In short, we model bribery and manipulation.
Think about it, in what other relationships is this acceptable behaviour?
If your child threatened you? Told you they would only do something if you complied with their wants… they would be called manipulative, rude or worse…
And in this case, we hide behind Father Christmas. We use him as the carrot to gain short-term compliance and a benchmark to whether our children have been ‘Good enough.’
What is ‘Good’ anyway?
Don’t we really mean that our children are easy, do as they’re told and don’t make our life more difficult?
Are they only good, when they don’t question us, when they don’t tantrum, cry, whine, answer back and they follow our every order?
And what message do our children take away from ‘being good” other than a BIG FAT MESSAGE If they’re NOT good, then they’re BAD.
Because, believe me, children take things literally and even if your children can’t articulate this, this is how they see themselves and the beliefs they form of themselves from a very young age.
Do we really want our children to worry they aren’t ‘good enough’ to get a visit from Father Christmas? For the whole of December to be filled with anxiety over whether or not they are ‘good’.
I wonder if parents truly think about what a dreadful message this is to send to their child.
What a mean threat, whether it’s carried through or not– because you’re not ‘good enough’ because you’re a bad person Father Christmas won’t pay you a visit. In fact, he’ll pass you by.
What unnecessary worry, stress, overwhelm and guilt we put onto our children.
Even a child we deem as ‘Good’ can be hiding the stress and fear and wondering if they too will get presents.
And what about a child who’s been threatened with no presents, he might as well give up trying to behave…
They both can’t relax into the joy of Christmas with this threat hanging over their head.
A few years ago, my daughter was having a meltdown because I said yes to a mincepie and no to hot chocolate at the coffee shop and I kid you not. A complete stranger sprung up and said, “You better be good and do as your mummy says, stop crying or Father Christmas will put you on the naughty list.” WTF? What is so bad about crying over not getting hot-chocolate at 4?!! I ‘m sorry my child is acting like a child and is upset. Deal with it!
This-guilt is so entrenched in our beliefs that complete strangers think it’s permissible to shame children.
Christmas is the season of joy, love and giving.
It is not conditional on behaviour.
Whatever happens, nobody threatens me with missing out on Christmas. I can be grumpy, loud, shout and lose my cool and it’s not linked with receiving presents.
When we threaten our children with ‘being good’, we fail to realise that children, particularly children who believe in Father Christmas, don’t behave like little adults.
They don’t think like us; they don’t have the same brain development or skills as us. They are in fact children who do childish things…
They are going to whine and cry and dig their heels in…It doesn’t mean they are ‘bad’ people.
Now, I’m NOT saying we let behaviour we don’t like slide, it’s our job as their parent to teach them better skills. Not to shame and threaten them into short-term compliance.
It’s our job as a parent to see our role within the family dynamic and stop holding our children to a higher standard than ourselves.
Who as an adult is going to be ‘perfect’ throughout December, never lose their cool, snap, answer back, forget to do the laundry, buy the milk… When are we ALWAYS good? We are all but human. This is human nature.
Using Father Christmas to control behaviour falls short on SO many levels.
The ONLY way to gain WILLING cooperation and better behaviour and not just throughout December is to build our relationships, one of unconditional love and support.
What do you think? Does the threat of no presents make for an easy parenting tool or one that makes you feel a bit icky?
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