Despite keeping the whole Santa/behavior thing fairly low-profile in our home, we worried our daughter was still internalizing it from various sources (school, movies, etc) pretty intensely.
Our fears were confirmed one day a few weeks ago as she expressed concern about “not being good enough.” She asked us whether other kids getting more for Christmas meant they were “good-er” than her.
Just to be clear, people. She wasn’t just worried about getting nothing (or coal) if she “was bad.” She had observed relative hauls among peers, and drew the logical conclusion that kids who get less simply aren’t as good as kids who get more.
If you’ve watched Pixar’s Inside Out, you’ll understand when I say that in that moment, all systems were in freak-out mode for a moment, and I’m still not sure if Fear or Anger were more in control. If you haven’t, let’s just say that the primitive mama-bear protective instincts were fully awakened.
And it’s why this tweet from Ada McKim got an amen from me:
Can we *please* stop linking behavior to Santa’s gift bringing? Many get little to nothing. What conclusion will kids form? #GlobalEd
— Adam McKim (@AdamMcKim) December 20, 2016
Now, when it comes to behavior, I am perfectly fine with consequences, loss of privilege, follow-through, time-out–the works.
But we take great care in our family discipline to ensure our kids understand their worth is unchanging. She may make a bad choice, but she is not a bad kid. And because she is a good kid, we know she can make better choices next time.
Nothing–not a perfectly-behaved class, and certainly not Santa–is worth jeopardizing our kids’ notions of self-worth.
That’s why I believe that as parents and teachers, we must always be on the lookout for when our actions send unintended messages. Like when our praise gets understandably concentrated on the kids who are naturally more comfortable with speaking up. Or when our rewards become more about control than encouragement.
All of this is much easier said than done, of course–after all, I would never have guessed that my daughter’s interpretations of Santa had gone so far as to touch on economic implications, and I’m grateful she brought it up! We are all so different and complex. But as we continue to work to prioritize our individual relationships with our students, we will be more likely to clarify misunderstandings and grow mutual respect.
featured image: Christian Weldinger