Admit It: You Use Santa Claus Threats to Discipline Your Kids

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You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry ...
You'd better not pout, I'm telling you why ...

Thursday, after school:

My 4-year-old daughter is playing with a stuffed animal. And what's that she's also got? A plastic bag. That's not going to work for me.

I have a rule against playing with plastic bags of any type. I remember one time being in line at the grocery store checkout and watching a small boy in a pushcart put a plastic grocery bag over his head while his mother was busy looking at the magazine rack. She never even noticed. Someone behind her had to get her attention. It all happened so quickly and I remember having heart palpitations even though it wasn't my child. How long does it take a child to suffocate?

Nope. No plastic bags for me. We've got plenty of other things around this house to play with.

"Mads, please throw the bag in the trash," I say.


"Did I ask your opinion, missy miss? The rule is no playing with plastic bags. There are plenty of other things to play with. Please throw it away."

She stands there, immobile, clutching the bag as if it was a treasured possession.

"What did I say, young lady?"

Reluctantly, with more than a little purposeful slowness, she shuffles over to the trash can. She looks at me and hesitates as if the fact that she's so damn cute will make me change my mind. She is so damn cute. I could drown in her cuteness, but I'm not changing my mind.

I go back to whatever I'm doing in the kitchen, but I have a sense that something is up. Out of the farthest corner of my eye, I see that she is hiding in the hallway between the kitchen and the front of the house, crouching down behind the trash can. I know exactly what she is up to. She has decided she must have that bag. She thinks I can't see her. I pretend to continue busying myself.

Slowly she moves. Inch by inch. It's like she's in super slo-mo. She's quiet as a mouse as her arm reaches up slyly toward the bag in the trash can. It feels like I'm watching a car crash or the climax of a thriller. I can't believe how patient (and devious) she is, the little imp! After what seems like an eternity, for me and I'd bet for her as well, she reaches the bag with her hand and snatches it silently out of the can.

Anger and instinct take over. I fly around the corner in a flash and for the first time in her life, I smack her on the bottom. More than once. Like I mean it. I want her to know that lying and being sneaky are not okay with me, nor will they ever be. I have this feeling that I must make my stand now. I can't wait until she's 15 to make sure she knows how important this is to me.
She cries tears of shock and heartbreak. I send her immediately to her room.

I can hear her sobbing upstairs and I hate it. That whole cliché that it "hurts me more than it hurts you" may be true. Later I go talk to her about how important it is to tell the truth and to listen to your mother. I tell her that it's not OK that she went behind my back. I love her very much and I always will, but that behavior was not OK.

"OK, mama. I'm sorry, mommy," she says.

The afternoon resumes as normal. We both recover.

Friday morning:

My children are in the family room having breakfast before school.

"Mama, is it my turn to open another door on the Advent calendar tonight?" she asks.

"No. Remember? As part of the punishment for yesterday's behavior, you are going to miss your turn tonight," I say. "You can do it tomorrow night, though. I want you to make good choices, sweets. No lying. It's not okay with Daddy or me if you lie."

Then, without thinking, I throw in "It's not okay with Santa if you lie either." Yes, I know. Probably a little too manipulative with the Santa thing. A step too far. (Don't tell me you haven't done it yourself.)

"But that's not in the song, mama," she says.


"That's not in the song."

And then it hits me. I've been singing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" to her every night before bedtime since Thanksgiving. She loves that song. She has taken to heart to you shouldn't pout or cry, unless you are hurt of course. Santa never said anything about lying, though. That's not in the contract.

I laugh out loud. How I love her.

Touche, my dear. Touche.
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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.