The festive period is so often sprinkled with magic and joy, which creates the most lasting memories in a child’s life.
Many of the characteristics embodied by this magical time, including kindness, generosity and gratitude, are core values that we wish to instil in our children. What about a sense of right and wrong? This is where Father Christmas or the Elf on the Shelf comes in. These figures become the authority on a child’s behaviour. They have lists that determine if a child “deserves” to be rewarded for good behaviour or denied presents (and, essentially, the joy that the season represents), because they behaved badly.
This is a difficult topic to address because the idea of good and bad is so deeply entrenched in what makes us human. We all want to raise our kids to be good people, there’s no doubting that. So without judgment, let’s explore the emotions that a watchful Elf may evoke in a child and what they learn from it.
“Don’t have a tantrum, Elfie is watching.”
Child learns: “I’m not allowed to express myself.”
“Do what I say or Santa will put you on the naughty list.”
Child learns: “If Santa says I’m naughty, I should live up to that label.”
“If you don’t behave, you won’t get any presents.”
Child learns: “But I do get presents every year, adults aren’t to be trusted.”
Children communicate more through their behaviour than through their words. A tantrum, for example, is a developmentally appropriate expression of frustration, anger, or disappointment, since a child’s brain is still developing the capacity to override such strong emotions. Whining is expressed by a child in conflict, who feels unheard. These forms of communication are not “naughtiness”. But when categorised as such, children learn to either rebel or retreat.
So let’s embrace this period as one of magic and wonder, a time for communication and love. Let us celebrate the nice, and leave out the naughty.