The day after Halloween I walked into our toy room to find my two-year old sitting on my four-year old, with a clump of hair in her hand, and my four-year old screaming bloody murder! I broke up the argument and walked back to the kitchen to check on the baby. Within three minutes I heard more screaming coming from the toy room…this cycle continued at least three more times. I put both girls in time out, I issued a “consequence” of no television after bath time, all to no avail. I was beat, they had done it again, my girls had teamed up on me and won. On my third time into the toy room to break up the fighting, I was distraught and I was desperate, what else could I do? I opened the door and I pulled out the big guns, so what if it was only ONE day after Halloween…
SANTA IS WATCHING!
Three little words, and yet their power and presence is pure magic. These three little words were met with wide eyes, beautiful smiles, and complete silence! My four-year old turned to my two-year old, and in a hushed voice said, “She’s not kidding, he REALLY is watching.” my two-year old responded with one simple thought, “Wow!”
The remainder of the evening was filled with sharing, quiet play, and sisterly camaraderie. As peaceful and enchanting as the night was, there was a small part of me second-guessing my decision to pull out the Santa weapon as early as November 1st. Was it too early? Is it a sign on poor parenting? Am I causing psychological harm to my children?
Remembering back to my own childhood, I can remember my Nana proclaiming, “Christmas is coming.” I heard these three little words hundreds of times throughout my childhood; winter, spring, summer or fall, Nana could be heard warning children and adults alike, “Christmas is coming.” As a child I thought she was talking about Santa, as a teenager I thought she was referencing her famous Christmas-Club checks from the less famous Otter Bank in town, and as an adult I knew she was talking about the loot she would buy year-round and sometimes forget to put out on Christmas day. Either way, when you heard those three words, you knew it meant that if you did not straighten out, you could potentially miss out on something magical. So… no, I could not possibly be using this effective weapon too early in the season, could I?
Later that week I was at the playground with the girls. I noticed another mother with her two children; her son, probably four or five was seriously misbehaving. For the first major incident, he got a timeout. For the second major incident, another timeout, this time a lengthier break. The mother was coming unglued, the little boy was really pushing all her buttons. Finally, at the near breaking point I heard the mother, clear as day…”Just remember, Santa is watching!”
Hark the Herald Angels?! Did I really just hear that?!
Yes, yes indeed another mother threatening with the notion that Santa would put her child on the naughty list during the first week in November!
Since my use of Santa on November 1st and the incident at the playground, I have heard this tactic used at least three other times: once in the grocery store, once at Target and once in my very home, by a friend of mine. So, I no longer question the use of my strategic tool…I know that I am in good company.
Now before you jump ugly on my ability to discipline and parent, I have been down the road of timeouts, consequences (both logical and illogical), behavior charts, and positive reinforcement. Nothing works as well as the threat of Santa. I know what you are thinking…what will I do after Christmas? Well, there are only fourteen weeks between Christmas and Easter, so the Easter Bunny is next!