How to keep your child off the 'naughty list'

Updated: Apr 28

Telling children that Father Christmas is watching them and knows when they misbehave has been used as a tool to get them to sleep, sit quietly and generally keep them off the ‘naughty list’ for generations. Over the last few years, the game has been upped with Santa cam’s, phone calls from the man himself to ‘chat’ about their misdemeanours and the ever-present elf on the shelf who ‘reports’ back to Father Christmas daily. With all this and the excitement that children already feel at this time of year is it any wonder that many of them are struggling to sit still let alone behave as they usually do

Obviously, a little nudge in the right direction when your child starts misbehaving is always a good idea but using Father Christmas and the lack of presents they may receive is not without its problems. How many of you say ‘Father Christmas won’t bring you anything this year if you aren’t good’ ‘You will just get a sack of coal’… Of course, we all know that these are empty threats and as Children get older they will soon realise that fact as well as he or she wakes up on Christmas morning to a huge pile of presents and not a piece of coal in sight. Also, children generally don’t cope with what’s happening further than the next hour, let alone next week so the deterrent may not work. And what is considered ‘good behaviour’ With so many of us at home more now, particularly if we are trying to work from home our idea of good behaviour may not mirror your child’s. Many of them could be wondering “How good do I actually have to be?”

So, what can you do to keep their wide-eyed excitement alive but keep them calm and able to follow the normal rules? Firstly, keep the sugary treats to a minimum, the house is probably full of treats and sweets and it’s tempting to think ‘it’s just once a year’ ‘it’s been a tough year for all of us’ etc but there is nothing worse than a sugar rushed child when it comes to bedtime! Keep the daily routine as normal as possible, lots of children find changes to their routine stressful and respond to these changes by misbehaving, keeping to mealtimes, bath times and bedtimes will help them feel secure and ensure they get plenty of sleep.

Reminding kids to behave so their names appear on the "nice list" can be all in good fun; but it’s not likely to be an effective long-term solution for managing behaviour. So rather than threaten to take away Christmas and blaming it on the guy in the big red suit, consider these tips:

Implement immediate consequences for misbehaviour. If your child hits their brother, an immediate time-out will be much more effective than the threat of “Santa’s watching.”

Set specific goals. Rather than aiming to “be good,” a child is more likely to respond to a goal like “use kind words only,” or “use only gentle touches with the dog.”

Create reward systems. Set up a sticker chart or a token economy system that allows your child to earn immediate rewards for specific behaviour.

Use positive reinforcement. Remember, threats are generally not effective. Instead, use praise generously to point out good behaviour and provide plenty of positive attention.

If you feel that your child is getting carried away with wanting every toy and gift they see, explain about gratitude, and get them to come up with ideas where they can give to people, even if it’s writing Christmas cards or drawing pictures to deliver to the elderly, helping them understand the concept

Try to remember what it was like when you were a child and the thought of all those toys, treats and general loosening of the rules could send you over the top and it’s just the same for our own children, this year has been hard for everyone and children have seen plans change and be cancelled at the last minute and they may also be worrying that Christmas might just not happen! Keep to your normal discipline rules, be consistent and don’t sweat the small stuff. Have a very happy, peaceful, and fun Christmas and remember they are only little for a short while.

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