Convincing My Kids Not to Ruin Santa for Everyone Else

santa

It was in the thick of the holiday season last year when our little family decided to do some shopping. We went to an outdoor shopping center, and I was browsing in the store with my littlest one in the Ergo when my husband volunteered to take the other three out to explore the holiday décor outside. They found a sign advertising Santa’s Workshop, and went to explore. A woman with her two daughters, who seemed to also be interested in seeing Santa’s Workshop, arrived at the same time.

“Santa isn’t here yet,” said the older daughter to my oldest son.

“Santa isn’t real,” my oldest responded with confidence.

The daughter’s mother stared angrily at my husband, her face communicating an insistence that he correct the situation.

The final words were barely uttered before my husband scooped them up, shot a look of apology at the mom, and scurried away from the scene of the crime.

It’s no secret amongst my friends and family that we don’t do Santa with our kids. We went into this strategy with an intention of cultural sensitivity, but realized quickly that we had failed to convey this attitude with our children. As parents, and as people, we were on board with the parenting choices others made when it came to Santa—but how could we convince a five year old to get on the same page?

I thought about the things I wanted for my children. I wanted them to grow up to be compassionate, brave, and strong. All of those things come from experiencing conflict, whether it is conflict in a relationship or confronting something that is different than what you believe. They need to be in situations that feel uncomfortable, and they need a safe space to sit with that discomfort and understand what it means. This uncomfortable encounter at Santa’s Workshop was a perfect opportunity to teach our kids these things in an age appropriate way.

“What do you know about Santa?” I asked. After my oldest explained what he knew about the story of Santa Claus, I added, “And some people believe it’s real instead of pretend, right?” When he nodded, I continued, “And that’s okay. Some people believe different things. And when people believe things that are different than us, and those things don’t hurt other people, it’s okay for them to believe those things. Believing Santa is real doesn’t hurt people. So when your friends at school talk about Santa, it’s important to be respectful of what they believe, okay?”

We didn’t have any more incidences after that, and we keep having refresher courses. We talk about things that are happening in the world around us, about how people treat others poorly because they believe something different. “Is that kind, or is that mean?” we ask.

“Mean,” the kids answer.

“Do we want to be mean, or do we want to be kind?” we ask.

“Kind,” they answer.

“How can we be kind?” we ask.

With all parenting decisions, we often go in with altruistic intentions. In that regard, sometimes it is about both the “what” as well as the “why.” From there, they are more likely to understand the “how,” and from that, perhaps we can nurture a more compassionate generation.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

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