Feel The Magic Of The Holidays Without The Naughty Lists

holiday magic and naughty lists

I'll admit, the idea of getting my children to behave by reminding them about Santa's naughty list used to allure me. A little bribing about the old man in red brought a little extra peace to my day, ya know?

I remember a Christmas just a few years ago, when my daughter was on the verge of a tantrum because I wouldn’t buy her cookies at 9am, so I reminded her that “Santa is always watching, and you don’t want to make it on his naughty list!”

She looked around a little scared, but was a complete angel after that and I got all my shopping done (score). 

But something didn’t sit right.

I’m someone who loves the magic of the holidays. I start grooving to Christmas songs the day after Halloween, and shriek with excitement when I see the first Christmas tree in someone’s window, or a menorah in a window. There’s lots of Hallmark Channel going on over here.

Yet, this is exactly why threatening the naughty lists felt like I was taking something magical, and using it for a tricky kind of discipline. The kind of discipline that puts a barrier between her and I, instead of the honest and respectful discipline we both thrive on. I could see she had anxiety all over her face, and I had caused it (all so I could buy bananas and icecream more quietly).

No judgement at all if you’re desperate and it’s the first thing you blurt out for sake of sanity (ahem, been there). But don’t we want our children to remember these days full of genuine warmth, joy, and magic? Why sprinkle in anxiety and stress when it’s not needed? Especially when we know it’s heathy to be the calm CEO of our families, gently stop negative behaviors, and accept our children’s emotions. This podcast is dedicated to public tantrums - a must listen!

This holiday season, I wonder if we can feel the magic without the naughty lists? Here are a few ideas on how to do that…

Give Your Children A Choice About Visiting Santa 

There are many children who can’t wait to visit Santa, and hop right on like Ralphie. And some children have some reservations about this, or are downright terrified. Trust that the range of stress they feel about sitting on a stranger’s lap is valid. Santa may look harmless and sweet to us adults, but young children can’t possibly see the big picture like we do.

They trust us to keep them feeling safe and secure.

Christmas naughty lists

Instead, offer a choice about whether they’d like to visit Santa, and how they’d like to sit for a picture before hand. This year 5 year old Sister has decided she wants to sit on his lap for the first time, and 2 year old Brother would like to sit next to him. Children might change their mind right before showtime. Respect for their feelings (even if it seems ridiculous) will go a long way. Make sure it’s what they want to do, get a refund, and do something festive you all truly enjoy.

Talk About Santa Being A Kind And Generous Being, And Skip The Naughty Lists

Santa is so loveable and merry. You’ll have your own way of explaining to your children who he is and what he stands for. You can make your own rules too, and skip over the whole naughty list bit if it feels right. At least, that’s what I do.

I figure since I'm a 36 year old who makes mistakes up the wazoo, why should I expect my children to be on their A-game? Especially when they are still learning about their own impulses and self-control. Whining and pushing boundaries is completely developmentally appropriate for young children. So let’s do ourselves a favor and not get so absorbed in it all (I’m so not perfect at this, but it gets easier). Instead, let’s set clear limits and carry on, and we won’t have check Amazon for lumps of coal. 

If you’re looking for an alternative to the Elf On The Shelf (the elves who spy on children being “naughty”, though it can be done in a fun and kind way too), The Kindness Elves are super sweet and I keep hearing they promote a lot of genuine kindness in the house.

Say "Yes" To Some Holiday Fun, And It’s Okay To Say “No” Too

What’s your favorite kind of holiday fun? I really hope you get to do it and have the best time. These are the kind of memories that get cherished every year. I can still remember my parents big Christmas Eve parties, and taste the Christmas cookies we got to snack on all night long.

For my own family, we always dress up and attend Christmas Eve service, and drive around neighborhoods looking at lights with hot cocoa. But I also do some shopping online to make less trips. I RSPV "no" to some holiday parties that I suspect will be overwhelming for two young children. I always skip anything that means waiting in line for 2 hours with 2 children. Perhaps when they are older we can join in. Many children enjoy the simple pleasures and any slowness we can offer - baking cookies, decorating the tree, fuzzy slippers while watching The Grinch, and singing carols.

This kind of slowness has a payoff: better sleep, genuine holiday cheer without overwhelm, improved behavior, and more ease and flow in the day. Now that’s Christmas spirit!

Self-Care During Busy, Stressful Times

If you’re in our Bay Area Whole Child Activities group, I shared this post about the importance of self-care for moms during busy and stressful times. What do you find the most stressful about the holidays? For me, it’s the extra to-do lists. It’s so easy for you and me to put self-care on the back burner. Yet this is the most important time to do it!

It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out, extra thing to do. It can be as simple as asking yourself, “What do I need in this moment?” and making yourself a self-care basket next to your favorite chair. I’m putting together my own self-care basket next to my cozy chair after I saw her example.
Here are 10 More Self-Care Rituals you can do alongside your children, or on your own. If you don’t have time to read it, then read thrice!

I hope you enjoyed this post, sweet friend.

I’d love to know: what kind of holiday magic are you most excited about this year?

PS - If you’d like a made-for-you 3 day mini-series on how to encourage more child-led play at home, trade me your email and I’ll send you some goodies.

PPS- Come join the Bay Area Whole Child Activities group if this is your ‘hood, and hop over on Instagram for a peek into my child-led play adventures and self-care in Insta stories.

Lots of love & respect,

Jesse xo

Looking for more ways to include self-care in your days, and rock the parenting journey?

I got you covered, boo.