Santa Clause is Watching You!

Posted on September 13, 2010
Filed Under Home and Family | 8 Comments

As I was leaving the kids’ soccer game yesterday I saw two small boys get into a little scrap.  One pushed the other, and they were ready to have a fight over some small disagreement.  The father of one of the boys grabbed them by the shoulders and to break their fighting said, “You know Santa Clause is watching you…you had better behave!”  I must admit, I was amazed, and somewhat shocked (though I probably shouldn’t have been).  I wonder sometimes if parents even think about what they say or do when it comes to raising their children.  It is, it seems, common practice for parents to try and bribe their children into good behavior.  I have seen parents give screaming children what they want in stores to stop their bad behavior.  It is not uncommon to hear parents threatening their children with the lack of Christmas presents if they fail to behave in the last few months of the year (even though most have no intentions of withholding anything from them).  What does this behavior on the part of parents teach children?  More than they often think about!  Consider just a couple of thoughts…

Lying is acceptable… Parents often  work hard to teach their children to be honest.  Even in non-Christian families, lying is discouraged and often punished.  But then, when it suits their purposes, the parents themselves lie to the children!  This is often justified by saying they are “only pretending” or that it is just “make believe”.  While there is nothing wrong with pretend or make believe, that is not what parents are doing.  They are using a false hood to manipulate the behavior of their children.  I have seen parents become very upset when someone else lets the cat out of the bag, and tells their children that Santa Clause is not real!  Would they react the same way if their children are told that Scooby Doo is not real?  Certainly not!  We as parents should not do anything that teaches our children that lying is acceptable under some circumstances.  How can we tell them never to lie, and then lie to them?  Parents, we must think about our actions!

We cause confusion… We have created a fictional character that exhibits all of the characteristics of God Himself.  Think of the words of description that are often used for Santa Clause from the words of a popular Christmas carol:

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
O! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

As you read those lyrics, consider the religious implications and significance.  We teach our kids to behave because Santa Clause is coming?  We tell our kids that he somehow mysteriously and miraculously knows who has been good and who has been bad?  We tell our kids that Santa knows everything about them, from when they are asleep to when they are awake?  We tell them that Santa will reward those who are good?

Don’t those things sound somewhat familiar?  God does watch us, and does see when we are “naughty and nice.”  It is God that knows everything about us, right down to knowing if we are awake or asleep.  It is God who is going to reward those who are good (and punish those who are wicked).  After years and years of teaching them that Santa bears all of these characteristics, we turn around and tell them that he really doesn’t exist!  Is it any surprise that when they get older children may question the reality of God?  After all, there isn’t anyone who can have those characteristics which are so incredible, is there?

Wrong motivation for good behavior… The New Testament tells children to obey their parents because it is the right thing to do (Ephesians 6:1-3).  We have transformed the motivation for good behavior from “the right thing to do” to “so that I can get what I want.”  In the basest sense, this is bribery!  But, even beyond that, it cultivates a sense of selfishness in our children.  They don’t learn that they need to be good, and obedient simply because that is what God wants of them, but rather to get the toys that they want.  There is certainly nothing wrong with parents occasionally rewarding their children for doing what is right, but to train them to alter their behavior to the promise of Christmas presents (or the withholding of them) sets a bad precedent.  It becomes a manipulative tactic for the last few months of the year, and is lost the moment all the presents are opened.  Why not just teach children to behave, based on the biblical principles, rather than fictitious characters and idle (idol?) threats?

Parents should always be careful in their parenting tactics, and consider what they are teaching their children.  We never want to do anything to degrade our children’s faith, and we don’t want to develop a selfish attitude.  While this may seem like a small thing to many people (and I am sure there will be many who disagree with my conclusions) I am afraid that it is detrimental to our children’s spiritual development and well being.