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.
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.
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.
“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.