The case against using Santa as a scare tactic

Getting children to behave by telling them Santa knows if they've been good or bad isn't in keeping with the true spirit of Christmas, says Krista Pfeiffer at Babble

If kids are good only for Santa, what happens comes December 26th?
(Image credit: Corbis)

This time of year, many parents encourage their kids to behave so they'll "make Santa's 'nice' list," says Krista Pfeiffer in Babble. I have to say, "admittedly with an air of righteousness," that the practice "really troubles" me. "In our home, my husband and I work very hard to encourage our kids simply to be good for — to quote a popular Christmas song — goodness' sake." We think using Santa-themed "scare tactics and bribery" to get our kids to behave undermines our authority and offers only a "pure extrinsic motivation" for good citizenship. So we don't tell our kids Santa Claus is coming down our chimney. But, guess what, they behave and enjoy the true "magic" of Christmas, just the same. Here, an excerpt:

I am not trying to pretend that my kids are saints, always behaving appropriately out of the sheer joy of being nice. Nor do I posit that children who believe in Santa are not otherwise good people. But how kids think of Santa Claus represents, for me, all that is not Christmas spirited: receiving instead of giving, greed instead of gratefulness, idle wanting instead of active contributing. And encouraging my children to write letters to him or make Christmas lists or be good because he's watching encourages all the wrong things for me. I want whatever goodness does come out of my children to be for the right reasons. I want them to be people who are simply good and kind and honest, as I try to be (well, most of the time…)

Read the full article in Babble.

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