Santa's watching you!
By: Olivia du Pont
Remember, Santa is watching you at all times all year round. He is counting the amount of times you misbehave, and in December he will review your behavior from the entire year and decide whether you are going to be given toys or coal for Christmas.
I remember my mother saying this to me when I was eight years old and eagerly waiting for Santa to bring me a stocking full of toys. You hear it from your parents, you hear it from basically every Christmas-related song, movie, book, or tale: if you are good, you get toys, if you are bad, you get coal, and most importantly, you are being watched at all times. As children we likely think nothing of this, as we are used to our behavior being monitored, it is just the norm. But what this is really doing to the minds of young ones is telling them that one, they are not safe in their own head, and two, that each and every “mistake” they make is being carefully documented and used against them. Even as parents, we may not fully be aware of what we are doing to our children, but in actuality we are using a form of mind control – social control, if you will, to shape how our children treat us. This takes away from the important lessons of teaching our children the difference between right and wrong and that actions have consequences, and instead, ingrains in children that they must behave well in order to receive some sort of material and conditional reward or punishment. Parents are teaching their children that they should respect their families and behave well so that they can get presents rather than because it is often the right thing to do. Likewise, parents are teaching their children that it is okay to be mistreated, and that as long as they are obedient and do not talk back, they will receive presents because Santa has deemed them “good”. Unfortunately, whoever came up with the toys vs. coal based-on-behavior-idea, even if they may have had good intentions, omitted the deeper lesson and importance of morals, and also likely did not think about the fact that children are so influential to the point where someone could hurt them and they would be too scared to say anything.
Convincing children that their behavior is being watched at all times of the day all year round is a form of social control used in order to control “deviant” behavior. For children, deviant behavior may be anything, including but not limited to, fighting with a sibling, talking back to parents, being disrespectful to elders and authority, and even something as simple as accidentally spilling a glass of milk. Bribing children with toys upon good behavior, and threatening coal upon bad behavior meticulously uses psychological methods to scare children into believing that there is one set definition of what is good and bad. The issue with defining deviant behavior as so black and white, and using Santa and the threat of not receiving presents while (seemingly) every other child is, is that when children are actually in danger, they may be too scared to recognize that or say anything, as they are taught to only be submissive and respectful of authority figures.
So how do we as a society reshape the message of Christmas?Well, that is dependent on individual beliefs.If Christmas is about Jesus, then make it about Jesus, if it is about family, then make it about family.If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then that is also completely fine.But we as a society must begin to stray away from the purpose of Christmas being about controlling our children and encouraging them to behave better based on material rewards. Steering away from this form of social control not only will allow children to establish their own set of moral and ethical values, but it will also show children that sometimes authority figures are not always right, and that it is okay to question things and talk back if something feels off.