Tuesday, December 7, 2010
No matter how desperately we try to have a Christ-centered Christmas, it is awfully tempting to use the red-suited man for some much needed parenting back-up during the stressful days of hustle and bustle.
My friend Renee’s eyes twinkled merrily as she watched her four-year-old scamper off to play. “This has been the best Christmas ever,” she said happily. “I struggle with Harrison all year long, but at Christmastime, he turns into a perfect little angel.”
Renee and her husband Bob had encouraged an elaborate Santa fantasy for their young son, even going so far as to make reindeer hoofprints around their backyard. When I asked them what they were going to do when Harrison found out the truth, Bob just shrugged. “All I know is, this is working,” he said. “When we remind him that Santa won’t bring him any presents if he acts up, he does exactly what we tell him to.”
Richard Patterson, a Children and Family Life Specialist, believes this type of parenting is unwise at best. “It’s a shortcut that avoids the better (and more difficult) approach of motivating children to do the right thing because it’s the right thing,” he explains. “That’s a parent’s goal. Children are to obey because it’s the right thing, because it pleases God and pleases Mom and Dad. That should be the motivation.”
Author John Hoh agrees and reminds parents that Santa is only a temporary fix for discipline problems. “It’s only effective for one month, maybe two, if you use the threat that Santa will return in January to retrieve the gifts.” Eventually, everyone finds out the truth about Santa Claus. A child who has been hoodwinked into good behavior will have no reason to comply with his parents when the jig is up. “Trust is broken,” acknowledges Hoh. “In fact, even before the ‘truth’ comes out, a child can be disillusioned.”
Focusing on a child’s outward behavior without tending to the motives of his heart will not solve your discipline issues.
Read all the posts in The Santa Series:
What Are You Going To Do With Santa Claus? (Part One)
Tempted To Use Santa As Your Disciplining Tool? (Part Two)
A Works Oriented Myth (Part Three)
Age-Appropriate Tips for Emphasizing Christ this Christmas (Part Four)
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