You may have been around for the Great Santa Debate found on my blog here, Our Children Will Never Believe in Santa Claus. Back then I couldn't believe people put up such a fuss about the whole Santa business! People were just being silly. Of course.
Then many comments and conversations happened, and before you knew it, my Handsome Stallion of a Husband and I started to think about it all. Really overthink. Listening to everyone's thoughts made us wonder if we were going about it the right way.
This past week I cleaned up the house and moved some furniture around to make room for our Christmas tree. I have plans to decorate the tree and the house within the coming days. (I wasn't purposely waiting for the "pink Advent Sunday" to do so, but it's kind of turning out that way.) But as I was organizing some Christmas decorations in the boxes downstairs, I came upon the cute, vintage-looking little guy - the Elf on the Shelf!
In light of the whole Santa Debate, my question is...do we bring out Mr. Elf?
I love the story and the idea of Santa Claus, I'm not going to lie. I think it's a great way to motivate children to behave and listen - because Santa's coming to all the good little boys and girls! And his little elves will help tell him who has been good or bad!
Then I come across an article that says children aren't "good" or "bad". Their actions and choices are good or bad. Before you brush this off as fluffy psycho babble, think about it: how would you feel if you made a mistake as a mother (as we often do), and your own mother (the wonderful Grandma) said, "You're a bad mom. You only get nice things if you're a good mom."
I'd be like, "I made a mistake. I know what I did wrong. But that doesn't make me a bad person."
Granted, children aren't logical adults. But in a way, the same goes for kids. We can't go around telling our children they're "bad" if we really want them to learn from what they did wrong. I want Little Olive to learn she can't hit because it's wrong. I want the focus being on what she did wrong, not on the fact that she's a bad girl. She is a person too. No matter how little, toddlerish, and crazy she may be at times. That's not to say there shouldn't be consequences for her bad actions. But misbehaving doesn't make her a bad kid.
Back to Santa Claus. My husband and I are wondering if we should tell Little Olive about him. Or if we should use the Elf to entice her into good behavior. But is this the way to go? I've read countless times that this is not a good way of rearing the youngins. Rewards, punishment, and bribes are quick fixes and don't encourage intrinsic motivation. Ahhh! All these choices we have to make as parents!
The last time this came up, one of my readers left a wonderful comment:
"I read an article once that in my opinion gave a very nice compromise. The parents celebrated Christmas with Santa and co until the kids got old enough to have classmates begin the arguments. Then when the daughter came home asking that question, the mom sat her down and told her the story of St Nicholas and how Santa Claus is the continuation of his good deeds and tradition. She told he girl something like, "Now, we're all Santas keeping up his tradition because we believe that what he did was something worth repeating." I like it because it explains that Santa is no longer alive and so in that way he's not "real." But it also tells the kids that yes he is real, as a historical figure, as a tradition, and that his good deeds still live through us."
I think, personally, this is the best solution we've found. The question still remains, however, if we should use the Elf on the Shelf. Maybe if we said the Elf is helping Mommy and Daddy, that would be better. It would still be integrating the magic and make-believe, but then also not be a lie either.
Thoughts are welcome!