‘Tis The Season For Santa Threats

It’s the most wonderful time of year, alright. Family parties, holiday lights, togetherness, big cups of egg nog (spiked).  But giddy parents everywhere know it’s now officially fair to drop Santa’s name as a threat for good behavior.

Will parents get a lump of coal for using the Santa threat?

There’s no incentive quite like playing the Santa card.

All year-long, my homemade threats never seem to be enough to deter bad behavior. I’ve warned I would take toys trains away, blow up the Barbie Dream House and ban the kids forever from the swimming pool.  Sometimes they work. Sometimes not. Probably because I rarely make good on the consequence. (Parental memo to self: you’ll never be able to enforce the swimming pool one)

But every year, I look forward to this warning. It’s a sure thing.

“Santa’s watching.”

That’s all I have to say. It stops the kids dead in their tracks. No more fighting, beds get made, homework is done and behavior becomes instantly magical. Because the thought of jolly ‘ol St. Nick by-passing their home shatters any visions of American Girl Dolls and Lightning McQueen cars dancing in their heads.

It has worked a few years for 7-year-old Caroline and 5-year-old Josh. But this year I’ve hit the jackpot. Now the two-year-old even gets it. I told her the other day when she was refusing, well, to do anything, “You know Catherine, Santa sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.”

She looked at me skeptically.

“Where is he?” she yelled.

Great point.

“Somewhere,” I said. “And he’s watching. Santa wants you to be a good girl.”

It worked. She sheepishly did what I asked her to do. And then looked over her shoulder for good measure, just in case Santa decided to pop out from the closet.

“Cruel!” the critics may yell. “Using a child’s magical belief in a benevolent man who brings gifts is just mean!”

Hmmm. Maybe. But I prefer to think of it as an effective incentive. It does come with a warning: you can’t abuse the Santa threat. You must choose the situation wisely or it can lose its power. Because you’ll NEVER follow through with a there-will-be-no-presents-under-the-tree threat.

I know my kids won’t believe in the joy and mystery of Santa Claus forever. We are not looking forward to the day when they discover that Santa gets a little help from Mom and Dad.

But until then, there’s nothing wrong with a little he’s-gonna-find-out-who’s-naughty-and-nice-so-you-better-not-hit-your-sister-again-or-Santa-won’t-bring-you-any-presents reminder.

21 thoughts on “‘Tis The Season For Santa Threats

  1. Christy,
    You say in the article “you’ll NEVER follow through with a there-will-be-no-presents-under-the-tree threat.” However, one Christmas when I was about 7 or 8, Santa indeed did not leave me anything but one solitary gift and a note saying “Michael, we understand you have been a bad boy this Christmas, so if you promise to be extra good in Church I will make a trip back to your house with the rest of your toys.” Well, you can be sure I was extra good,…..well I fell asleep but I was good. So, you can be sure the Jolly Old Fat Man was back and I hit the jack pot. To this day I don’t know how he got all my presents in the house while we were at church. Hmmmmmm.

  2. To further reinforce this “Santa is watching” threat, my sister in-law used the “Elf on the Shelf” story/toy for her kids. Basically the story is, you have this elf that sits somewhere in your house and he is monitoring the kids and reporting back to Santa every night. After the kids go to bed, you move the elf to a new location to further reinforce that the elf left for the night to report and is now back and watching. The full system is available at Amazon, Hallmark, and other fine retails (I’m sure).

    We plan to implement this system in our house soon…..the elf may be watching all year long, and not just around Christmas.

  3. Two words for you, Sister…….NOG. (Hey, does that qualify as a Rowbal family favorite thing?)Keep the blogs coming, and keep bribing them little Sammie’s with Santa threats. 😉

      • No, Patrice has made NOG for years. And we’ve finally all voted it off the island of family get togethers. It is a level 3 hazmat concoction. Even she agrees. But Tom’s limoncello is excellente – he’s made a new batch for Christmas!

  4. If it gets bad, my husband does an OUTSTANDING Santa voice. We used a few years ago on nephew, and his jaw hit the floor! Let me know!

  5. I might just be the only one who feels some serious guilt whenever I pull the “Santa” card. I’m not saying that I never use the card – I sometimes do. But then I get the Mommy Guilt right afterwards. It makes me feel a bit bad that my kids are thinking that some strange, big bearded man is “watching” them. To the five year old who is just learning to use modesty…is she wondering if Santa is “watching” her while she sits on the potty? To the three year old who is just learning to sleep in his Big Boy Bed in his Big Boy Room all by himself…is he lying there at night slightly freaked out that some strange fat guy in a red suit is “watching” him while he sleeps? I just don’t know what goes through their little minds. Now, I’m trying to think back….waaaaay back…to when I believed in Santa Claus. Did I think those thoughts? I might have, but if I did, I don’t remember. So no harm done, right? I will play the card at times when I’m desperate for the kids to just DO AS I SAY! without having to yell. It’s so nice to quietly say, ‘Uh oh…I wouldn’t throw a fit like that if I were you. Santa is watching!” But there’s a part of me that just feels a bit mean doing that. Well, I suppose it’s a bit mean of the kids not to mind me, right? Or to throw a fit when they don’t get their way? So I’ll just continue to play the Santa Card from time to time…. and we’ll call it even 🙂

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