My Kids Are Not Good For Santa Claus

We practice Santa Claus in our home as in he comes on Christmas Eve and leaves some of the presents that my kids asked for in a letter.  He flies to our home like he flew to our childhood homes and our parents’ homes and our grandparents’ homes every Christmas Eve.

We see it as a tradition not as an emphasis, and we do not participate in the SANTA WON’T BRING YOU GIFTS threat.  First, because we would never ever follow through on it, but more importantly, if my kids are being good so they can get gifts, they’re missing the entire reason we are good.

Our words and actions are all we have in this world. I want to teach my children that we are kind and thoughtful and listen well because that is who we want to be.  Period.

Does this mean I never reward my children for good behavior? No. They have gotten a toy for good listening during errands or candy for practicing a lesson. But they also do well in stores and don’t get a toy, get toys for just being E and N and eat a piece of candy every day because YUM CANDY.

I’m not jumping to the conclusion that using Santa as a carrot creates mindless materialistic children.  As a child, I worried about my status with the Claus, and I am neither mindless nor materialistic (mostly) nor are most of the children I know who grew up with the Santa threat.  However, for a long time, I thought that every good deed needed to be noticed and counted — counted towards my goodness or against my mistakes. And I spent more days than I’d like to admit being resentful at people who forgot to say thank you.

Did Santa do that? Not exactly. But I think our society is set up on Santa scale. We are good so people will think we are good. We are angry because no one appreciates us and our sacrifices. We believe that good people deserve more, deserve better, deserve heaven, or at least deserve less bad.

What our society doesn’t reinforce is that being good, in and of itself, is a reward. Each time I chose to be understanding, kind and gentle for no other reason than because it is WHO I WANT TO BE, I feel better about who I am and what it is around me. I can look myself and the world in the eye. I have esteem because I do esteemed things. I am less tired because I’m not keeping score. I am less angry because I’m not waiting for the thank you that may never come. A thank you is nice but it becomes unnecessary.

I want to teach my children that doing the next right thing is about our hearts, and for those of us who believe in God, it is about our spiritual status. I don’t do good to get stuff or to prove my worth — doing good is an act of reflecting God’s love into the world.

I’d like to think that Santa is coming to town because he wants to be a good person, too.

To be clear, I don’t think parents who use Santa to promote good behavior are bad or lazy or {insert judgment}. I don’t participate because I see it in a big picture context and because of my personal experiences and belief system. Feel free to disagree. It’s good for us to discuss and debate.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

20 thoughts to “My Kids Are Not Good For Santa Claus”

  1. Ooh, I really like your approach! I’m pretty sure my parents raised me similarly. I think with the extra energy around Christmas they may have pulled the “be good for Santa” card a few times… but for the most part, we were good kids because that’s what was expected!

    She’s not even two, so I hardly have room to brag… but so far, my Laura is a pretty great kid. I just hope this continues when she’s, y’know, 12.

  2. That’s a very interesting perspective I must consider. I like it. I mean, I’ve always wanted to teach my daughter to be good just for the sake of wanting to be a good person, but I never considered how having someone keeping track of your good and bad behaviors is counter intuitive to that.

    Marriage “experts” say the worst way to fight is to bring in past transgressions. So isn’t keeping a list of good and bad kids and behaviors doing the same thing?

    Hmm….you got my wheels a turning, lady!

  3. I took our first child to visit Santa when he was two. That night he went home and prayed to Santa. I never took another child to visit Santa. I didn’t talk much about him either way. When the kids asked, I said what my mother said: “Santa needs lots of helpers.” So we tried to do that. And I still believe in Santa.

  4. I love this & I totally agree. I don’t mind the tradition of Santa but I don’t like the reward/punishment aspect of it. I would like to do gift giving on Jan 6 (the epiphany) to remove the focus of Santa on Christmas. My husband disagrees. I’m sure we’ll find a compromise somehow.

  5. You make really good points and I am going to have my husband read this because he and I disagree on this one. He drives me nuts with his “Santa won’t bring you presents if… ” threats. I only use them when I’m completely desperate and out of other options :).

  6. Love this. I have a friend who is thinking about celebrating Saint Nicholas Day (December 6) if/when she has kids. That way Santa and Christmas are separate. This might confuse kids, but I think it’s a really interesting idea.

  7. I’ve never used Santa as a carrot either (wow, what a fun string of words), but last night I did finally reach the end of my rope with my oldest being stubborn at bedtime and say “You know, Santa’s going to know that you’re not behaving the way you should” and he fairly well leapt into bed. I’ll take it.

  8. I hate this kind of thinking, too. The problem with Santa is that despite how we talk about the guy in our house, strange people and neighbors immediately bring up their lame ideas to my kids. The kids have to field questions about their wish list or behavior regardless of what we teach, and that annoys me. My son was mean to a couple of kids last week at school, and one of the teachers told him he’s going to be on the naughty list. (She kids, but he doesn’t realize that.) So he sat in the car and cried that he wouldn’t get presents.

    What do you make of the Santa sites where you can plug in your kids’ names? I’m not a fan for the above reasons you mention.

    1. Oh, your poor son. My son would lose it completely — not because he’s so present oriented but image Christmas without a visit from Santa? Ush.

      I haven’t seen those “plug in your kids’ names” sites. What are they?

      There is a charity in town that writes a letter back to your kids “from Santa” and now I’m nervous about what it’ll say.

  9. I couldn’t agree more and that is why it is so sad that I have been pulling the Santa card for no less than two months. This is the first year Hayden has really understood Santa and what a “powerful” concept he is. And I an ashamed to say that I have been totally saying “boys who listen to their mommies get toys from Santa.” Ashamed because I did not plan to go this route. I just got desperate.

  10. Fantastic food for thought.

    (And in case you didn’t know, I love food. And thought. Thinking and eating are two of my favorites, so.)

    I love this post.

    My kids are 12 and 14 so this is no longer an issue for us; but I believe we never really used the threat. In fact, we used to laugh at the “you’ll get coal in your stocking” theory that my kids picked up somewhere (not from us) and were genuinely concerned about one year.

    Now that I think about it, why were they concerned? And why did we laugh?

    Hmmmm. Can we go back to talking about candy?

  11. This really got me thinking and discussing with my husband. I am having a hard time with my religion and trying to go about teaching my son the right way. For my husband it is more cut and dry. This post right here got us into a discussion and any post that does that…is a great one! So thank you for this! We recently got an elf on the shelf and I am actually okay with the fact that my son isn’t too concerned with the fact that “santa” is being told what he does daily. I truly want him to do the right things because in his heart he knows they are the right things.

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