Oh, Yes, He Did

How many of you have ever threatened to take away gifts at Christmas? Or threatened to text Santa about the kids being naughty? Or told your elf in front of your child that he/she did something wrong? Or said something like, “If you don’t stop (fill in the blank), Santa’s not going to give you any presents!”

Most every parent has resorted to a version of these empty warnings at one time or another.

I have, and I’m not proud of it. The second the words come out of my mouth, I am disappointed in myself for losing control, resorting to threats, and for basically saying something that I would never do. It feels dishonest and childish, but mostly it feels desperate.

This year was no exception to children misbehaving and empty threats flying.

And then I stopped myself and gave myself a lecture. I said, “Either knock off the threats or man-up and stick to your word.”

I knew Santa could not not leave presents Christmas morning. He’s either too weak or too kind, depending on how you see it. But something had to be done.

The kids had literally been fighting all year long. So much so that I even bought the “Parenting University” package from Teaching Self-Government which included several books, DVDs, support calls and a one-on-one mentor call with the founder. I was at my whit’s end and needed some direction.

We’ve been working on implementing all the systems for a few months, but it takes a lot of time, energy, patience and teaching to carry the program out. We aren’t where we need to be yet. The fighting continues daily, hourly…

Anyway, like I said, something needed to be done, and finally I thought of an alternative that I had never considered before. Santa could still make a statement and teach a lesson without completely destroying the hearts of little children.

After much contemplation, our Santa decided to not leave a family gift this year.

Oh, no, he didn’t.

Oh, yes, he did!

Tradition has it that after all the presents are open on Christmas Day, there is usually an envelope under the tree.

It contains a poem from Santa that leads the kids to one more gift for the whole family.

In the past years, the kids have found a piano keyboard in the basement, a DVD player in the car, EzyRollers in the garage, etc. You get the idea — something fun that all the kids can benefit from.

But this year, when we came out to our car after Christmas Eve at my mom and dad’s, an envelope was on our windshield.

coal-envelope

The kids could see that the tag was marked “Naughty” so interest was immediately piqued.

coal-tag

Inside the envelope was a poem. We opened it up in the car and read the poem together. This was the first stanza:

coal-letter-2016

You can read the full poem here.

coal-setup

I’m glad Santa chose to let us know of his decision on Christmas Eve rather than drop the bomb as the last gift of Christmas Day. It would have left a damper on the wonderful morning we had. This way the kids had a chance to process the bad news as we drove up the canyon. There were some questions and some tears, but when we got home 50 minutes later, they were in better moods and accepting of the decision.

The kids still got plenty of stuff from Santa Christmas morning and didn’t seem too upset by the lack of a family gift.

I feel like Santa made the right decision this year for our family. Individually my kids are great kids. Teachers love them. Coaches love them. They are respectful and kind to others, but inside the home to each other it all goes south. So they got individual presents, but not a family gift, because that is where the problem lies.

I’m doubtful the kids’ behavior is going to drastically change because Santa withheld a gift, but I do feel good that a small gesture was made. They now know that gifts aren’t guaranteed; that Santa can and will make decisions based on behavior, and that he does not accept family fighting.

And I’m proud of Santa for following through and doing the harder thing.

 

3 Comments
  1. You will never hear the words “you better be good or Santa won’t bring presents” come out of my mouth, or anything of the sort, because I know that I could never follow through on something like that. I don’t focus on Santa, elves or anything of the sort. In fact I downplay it completely at my house. I guess you could say it takes away some of the magic because we just don’t talk about Santa and most of their gifts are from mom and dad. I would never have it in my heart to take away Christmas so therefore I don’t make that threat…ever. I don’t base Christmas on behavior because I’m not strong enough to follow through. BUT, I have to say I like this idea and it worked perfectly because of your “family gift” tradition. You showed them Santa is serious but still made Christmas magical and I’m willing to bet this will stick with them for a long time. Oh and I’m right there with you on the fighting ? It’s the most exhausting thing about being a parent.

    1. You are smart and in control to not make the threats because you know you won’t follow through. So many parents threaten, but in reality would never do it because it would be so hard to not give gifts. We are just overreacting in the moment and it feels gross. I try to downplay Santa too. He is only supposed to bring 3 gifts (plus the family gift) and the rest mom or dad fill in. I’m ok with taking away parent gifts from individuals, and I’m happy with the message that the no family gift sent: If you can’t be a happy family- you don’t get a family gift. And P.S. Happy late Birthday!!! I’m sorry I missed your day, but hope you felt loved and special amongst all the Christmas hustle and bustle.

  2. I have seen the post floating around Facebook lately where the family wrapped empty boxes and when kids misbehaved would throw them in the fire so kids thought they really did lose a gift. I laughed but also felt like it was a bit cruel – I really like your approach! I hope all is well, glad to see another post from you. Wishing you and your family a belated Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!