SantaChildren really do want to be nice, especially at Christmas. But as holiday expectations build, parents may find their children’s behavior wandering more frequently into Santa’s naughty column. In trying to encourage good behavior during the holidays, parents may put too much pressure on young children and unwittingly provoke the very behaviors they hoped to prevent.

To keep the season jolly and avoid holiday meltdowns, use the following tips from Horizon Education Centers’ staff and parenting expert Susan Newman, author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day, to help your children stay on Santa’s nice list. (Keep these tips handy; you’ll find them equally effective in encouraging good behavior during birthdays and vacations.)

  • Keep behavior expectations clear and specific. You might ask children to follow directions, pick up toys or help with chores. Promote success by keeping tasks short and within your child’s abilities.
  • Don’t ask more of your children than they can deliver. Keep holiday activities kid-friendly. Hire a sitter if you plan to spend an adult evening with friends.
  • Don’t use Santa as a threat. When discussing behavior, keep the focus positive. “Santa is going to be happy your put your toys away” sends a more positive message than the threat “Santa’s watching you.” Reminding children to be respectful to adults and kind to their siblings teaches them to think about the feelings of others. Offer examples of desired behavior to help your child understand these concepts.
  • Keep the “gimmes” under control by focusing on the spirit of the season, not the loot under the tree. In many families, Santa brings a single gift and the number of gifts from parents is limited. Including your child in choosing gifts for giving trees, collecting for food pantries and other charitable activities can help your child focus more on giving, not getting.

photo credit: bart fields