And we might even think it works in that moment, because my friend I can tell you, it buys us a little headspace, a little peace… but does it work in quite the way we would hope for?
The problem is behaviour becomes all tied up with threats and manipulation.
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 and stressful 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. One of the problems with using rewards as a parenting tool is that 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? 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. -“I’m so bad I don’t deserve presents.”
Do we really want our children to worry they aren’t ‘good enough’ to get a visit from Father Christmas?
I wonder if parents truly think about what a dreadful message this is to send to their child.
The whole of their December is filled with anxiety over whether or not they are ‘good’. 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…
Anxiety causes our children to worry and experience overwhelming thoughts and feelings. Imagine constantly thinking whether you’re good enough to receive presents. It can leave our children feeling exhausted, isolated and limit their ability to think clearly. – not really conducive to the behaviour we want to see.
They can’t relax into the joy of Christmas with this threat hanging over their head.
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?
If home life feels like a daily battleground and you want to have a more fun, relaxed, happy family Christmas let’s chat. You can schedule a complimentary, no-obligation call. You can do that by clicking right here.