As soon as I saw the headline "In Our House, There's No Santa Claus" my heart sank with the knowledge of an impending conflagration. Santa is a highly charged issue!
Writes Krista Pfeiffer, among other things,
My husband didn't understand the reference, so I explained to him what "Elf on a Shelf" was, to the best of my knowledge. "So, basically they use scare tactics and bribery to get their kids to behave?" he paraphrased. And I nodded, again with a slight air of disbelief.
Meanwhile, 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. Throughout the day, when my two-year-old son cries, I ask my four-year-old daughter if she can think of a way to make him feel better. The slightest hug or kiss from her is all my son needs to immediately pop back to happiness. And then I'll quietly nudge my daughter and point out: "You did that! You got him to feel good again." And we share a quick, tender smile before she goes back to being a robot or astronaut or baker. ..My two-year-old was born into the loving and kind family environment my husband and I try to maintain. When he hears a kid cry, he automatically pouts in empathy. He is quick to dole out hugs or kisses to people he knows when he sees them in distress. And, of the few dozen words he uses, "I'm sorry" are two....So the notion of encouraging my kids to be good in order to make Santa's "nice" list really troubles me. Not only does it completely undermine my authority, but it's pure extrinsic motivation.
My kids will still wake up on Christmas morning to see a sparkling tree with a modest bounty of presents underneath. But more importantly, they will also give gifts to the less fortunate, say thank you for what gifts they receive and continue to be kind and do the right thing.
This mom is welcome to do what she wants in her house. She makes some good points about scare tactics and bribery. The "naughty or nice" thing is probably problematic for most moderns. But the tone — oy, the tone! Is there a way to write about parenting without being superior or condemnatory? Or are these opinions just too closely-guarded, too important to the writer?
The commenters quickly fall into two factions, both exercised: the pragmatists who back her up and others who object to her straw-man brat/saint binary and her superior tone. There are some good points made on both sides. Says one,
As a teacher of elementary school students I see another fundamental problem with Santa. Every year the kids talk about their wish list and what they are going to get from Santa, and every year without fail the upper class kids get their wishes. While the lower, more poverished children don't get satisfied. Are they doomed to think they were not as good, or righteous as the others? It makes me sad.
And another argues,
First of all, desire is not the same as greed. It is perfectly okay and normal for children to desire things, because they are young and have little or no recourse to get things for themselves. For kids, Christmas and birthdays are times they can actually look forward to getting some things that they have desired. That's not bad! Greed is a completely different thing, and there are definitely some greedy kids out there, but it has NOTHING to do with whether or not they believe in Santa and everything to do with the other ways that they are raised. Secondly, many (and indeed, most) kids I know who believe in Santa are concerned with him as a person. My own child and my friends' children have all, at one point or another, asked if Santa gets anything for Christmas. The whole milk and cookies thing is an offering for the generous soul who gives to children. Kids aren't just excited about Santa for his presents, but for the idea that someone who doesn't actually "know" them personally gives generously from his heart, with love. What a splendid thing to teach your children - to be more like Santa! I was raised in a Santa house and I never thought of it as a lie once I gradually realized he wasn't "real," but more as a beautiful story that I got to partake in as a child. Thirdly, you don't like others using Santa as a parenting tool? So don't do it yourself. Who says Santa has to be a weapon?
These are smart people with well-argued opinions. The whole discourse, however, left me feeling tense and distressed; you didn't sense anyone was swayed or persuaded — the initial tone was too combative for that. And really, is anyone open to argument on these issues, to admitting that he's "wrong" about his kids? Can you defend without attacking, in the context of parenting? The exchange left me unsure.
One thing not addressed by anyone though was, for me, one of the big issues: whatever you believe, don't encourage your kid to be the superior killjoy who ruins it for the other kids. The problem being that, for a little kid, that kind of restraint would truly be saint-like behavior.
In Our House, There's No Santa Claus [Babble]