Can You REALLY Have Gentle Parenting And Santa?!

This post that has been floating around my brain for a couple of years and it’s something I’ve spent a lot time thinking about personally. Do the ideas of Gentle Parenting and Santa fit together? Is it okay to lie to your kids if it’s for their benefit? Does Santa make Christmas more magical or is it a way to manipulate young children?

Obviously everyone will have their own take on this, but I’ve come to the conclusion that gentle parenting and Santa can work hand-in-hand as long as you still prioritise empathy and kindness.

scan and go challenge christmas wrapping paper - gentle parenting and santa

Christmas is magical

Christmas is magical; the lights, the music, the smiles, and the sparkle! As a child, that magic is amplified; dreaming of presents, performing in school concerts, making cards, and decorating for the tree.

Throw in a jolly old man with a heart of gold and a sleigh full of toys, and you’ve got a recipe for a perfect Christmas!

But I have seen a big shift in recent years from themes of generosity and kindness, to pressure and manipulation.

Christmas Star Biscuit - how gentle parenting and Santa can work

The rise of Santa-enforced rules

Santa is no longer a kindly man who finds joy in giving. He is a law-enforcer.

Modern parents can use apps to send Santa updates about how their child is behaving. Elves apparently fly in on 1st December and report back to Santa all the misdeeds of the children. My daughter’s nursery even installed a “Santa Cam” which flashes a red light because “Santa is watching” to see if they are good enough to have presents this year!

No, no and NO!

For me, this goes against everything that Christmas is about.

We give gifts to people because we love them and want to make them happy. We don’t do it because we’ve totted up their “niceness” score and decided that they made the cut this year!

Christmas decorations on a tree - gentle parenting and Santa

Now don’t get me wrong – as a gentle parenting mama, I believe wholeheartedly in teaching children cause and effect. But this must be coupled with a spirit of empathy and generosity: Children are not machines – they have good and bad days, just like we do.

Heaping on this pressure to earn Santa’s favour strips the magic out of Christmas. It changes it from a season of happiness to a season of manipulation and threats.

Plus, at the end of the day, how many parents actually go through with their threats of “no presents”?? Gentle parents should always be honest with their children, and that includes sticking to any consequences that are issued. This helps children know where they stand and what the boundaries are. Issuing empty threats just to get your kids to comply is unkind and manipulative.

Felt Christmas Decorations small hand hanging baubles - gentle parenting and Santa

Gentle parenting and Santa

So is it possible to marry up gentle parenting and Santa? Well I believe it is, if we get back to the heart of what Christmas is about.

We need to stop using Santa as the “child police” and reinstate him as the kind-hearted, benevolent man he is supposed to be.

Santa believes that every child has worth. He doesn’t care about their race, country, wealth, school work, popularity – they automatically have worth. And that belief is absolutely in line with my version of Gentle Parenting.

Children’s behaviour is the result of their genetics and life experiences – they are not “bad”. As parents, it is our job to listen to our children and nurture the good in them. And the starting point is a belief that children are equal in value to adults.

They have worth.

Christmas is about celebrating the worth of all people – “Peace on earth” rings out across the radio waves and in every school concert. If we can claw back that kind of Christmas (from the retailers who want to put a price on everything and everyone) then we truly will have a Merry Christmas.

nativity-songs-for-ks2-greatest-showman-tune-white-pink-christmas-tree - gentle parenting and Santa

Practical ways to practice gentle parenting and Santa

So how will this new take on Christmas look? How do gentle parenting and Santa fit together? Well here are five ideas to get you started:

  1. Presents are gifts not wages – Stop threatening to take children’s presents away or tell Santa to put them on the naughty list. Give gifts with love and generosity.
  2. Santa is kind – Stop portraying Santa as a “Big Brother” type character who is always watching and noting every mistake you make. Santa should be a role model of kindness and selflessness.
  3. Authority remains with the parents – Stop making Santa the highest level of authority over Christmas. Maintain the rules and boundaries you’ve set over the previous 11mth with the same consistency and consequences. Don’t throw all of that hard work out for the month of December by making someone else’s opinion more important than yours.
  4. Santa is for the children’s benefit – Children love to believe in magic (unicorns, fairies Santa, etc). I don’t have a problem with that. But if they begin to question it, then be honest with them rather than forcing them to believe for longer than they want
  5. Elf on the shelf is purely about the fun – If you and your child want to do Elf on the Shelf, then have the mischievous acts without the elf reporting back to Santa.

Felt Christmas Decorations 3 foot 3ft Christmas Tree - gentle parenting and santa

Did you believe in Santa as a child? How do you do Santa in your home now? Do you agree that Santa has become a way to manipulate children or do you think I’m being too melodramatic? As always, I’d love you to join in the conversation and leave a comment below.

PIN it for later:

Is it okay to threaten your kids with Santa - gentle parenting and Santa may not feel like a natural fit but Father Christmas really can make a family Christmas extra magical. But things like Elf on the Shelf can end up creating a lot of pressure and be manipulative. Here are 5 tips to include Santa in a kind, respectful parenting way #elfontheshelf #familychristmasideas #gentleparenting


Add yours
  1. 1

    Such a great post Lucy! My daughter has recently started to study Psychology at uni and we had a discussion about Santa with some of the points you bring up. Santa is a lie for starters but the fact that he gives presents to only good children? What?? Right there, so wrong. We were always very careful to ensure that our kids knew that their gifts came from us, their parents. Santa only brought small presents and they were pocket money type presents. Children need to know that you love them so having everything come from Santa seems silly. This also helps when they realise that some children don’t get any presents -‘doesn’t Santa give those children presents too?”
    As always, I love your approach to gentle parenting, Lucy. Super post! #blogcrush

  2. 3
    Alice V

    You make some good points Lucy on Santa and what he actually represents -a kind man that gives gifts. I think the carols we sing and have sung for years have put it into our heads that Santa only visits good children and you’re right, it makes him seem like the “Christmas police man.” Really, I don’t think he should be and I never looked at it that way before, I just accepted the norm that Santa will skip your house in a heartbeat if you were a bad kid. Thanks for putting new ideas into this old tradition. #BlogCrush

  3. 4

    Thanks so much for this, Lucy! I think Santa definitely makes Christmas more magical, but he shouldn’t be used to scare children or manipulate them. Like you say, empathy and kindness are the top priority. #BlogCrush

  4. 5

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve written. This is the reason we don’t have elf on the shelf in our house, we do however indulge in Dinovember where our toy dinosaurs come to life at night and cause mayhem just for the fun/magic of it. The ‘real’ Father Christmas is a magical being, who makes toys along with his elves for all the children in the world. We even leave old and unloved toys under the tree on Christmas Eve that will be taken back to his elves to be repaired and given out to children who need them more. #blogcrush

  5. 7

    hear hear on every point. Santa and Christmas is about magic and fun and love and caring. Great post #blogcrush
    Here’s to gentle parently and kindly old me with white beards, flighing raindeer and tiny helpers dressed in green xxxxx Happy New Year

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