Naughty or Nice

“Oh, you better watch out, You better not pout.  

You’d better not cry, I’m telling you why,

Santa Claus is coming to town.

He’s making a list.  He’s checking it twice.

He’s gonna find out, who’s naughty or 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.

So, you’d better watch out.  You’d better not pout.  You’d better not cry,

I’m telling you why.  Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Do you remember these familiar lyrics?  I do!  The song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots seemed to be played frequently during my childhood.  I suppose it was written as a deterrent for naughty behavior at Christmas time.  I also remember hearing stories of Saint Nicholas leaving coal in stockings of “bad” little boys and girls on Christmas morning.  For me, these reminders were all that I needed to keep my behavior in check.  I was certain that I was going to be good so that I received nice items in my stocking on Christmas morn.

How does that same refrain work in today’s culture?   As a teacher for 25 years I have been amazed at how children’s behavior has changed over the years that I have been teaching.  When I began teaching in the 1970’s, students had a basic respect for authority figures.  Even though I had a few students with rambunctious behavior, mostly all of them respected authority and understood boundaries.

In today’s schools that has actually flip-flopped.  There are many students who enter school with no respect for authority figures and no understanding of boundaries.  In fact, I have recently heard that many pre-schools do not utilize any kind of behavioral plan using a consequence for negative behavior, and allow children to do anything they desire to do during the day, not enforcing any kind of boundaries.  No wonder it is so difficult getting children to sit still, listen, and focus on a lesson in kindergarten and first grade.  Children have been programmed to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it.  Everything revolves around the big ME.

Children need to be an integral part of the process of creating a set of  home rules that all kids in the family will follow.  Then, they need to see positive behaviors modeled before them so that they will know what is expected of them.   It is important for kids to be recognized for performing the correct instructions.  Positive comments or rewards for being good pay off lasting benefits.  This makes other kids want to do the same.  Good behavior spawns more good behavior.  If you choose to focus on what a child does wrong and on negativity, it ends up being a downer for that kid, and for the rest of the family.  More negative behavior will occur.  Praise is a winner every time.

Maybe your child has a specific area where he or she has their naughty behavior.  Let’s say it is tattling or lying.  Make sure that you praise your child for the other good qualities in his or her character.  Maybe your child is very giving, or very helpful.  Give lots of praise in those areas, but tell your child that everybody has one area that they need to focus on, and that this area is his.  You can talk about the specific behavior and why the child does it.  Is the tattling because she wants your attention when you are working with the other kids?  Talk about how you can carve out special time with her each day, or an extra special time each week.  Make a chart where she gets a star for each day that she doesn’t tattle.  When she gets so many stars she gets a reward.  For the lying, discuss if he was lying because he was afraid that he was going to get in trouble.  Talk about why lying is wrong, and that you would rather have him tell the truth, when he does something wrong, than lie.  Discuss how that takes real bravery, and that brave boys get extra time with mom or dad.

I can’t accentuate enough the power of praise over negativity in changing behavior in children.  If a child always hears that she is doing things wrong, or that what she does is not good enough, then she begins to internalize that she must be bad and begins to feel bad about herself, thus acquiring a poor self-esteem.  This can lead to the child not wanting to try anymore, and wanting to give up, because she has begun to believe that she can’t do the work that she is being asked to do.  The child may then begin acquiring “acting-out ” behaviors because she is anxious, depressed, and doesn’t know what to do in the deepening crisis that she is in.

Let’s turn that situation around and use praise instead of negativity.  When a child is hearing praise about the accomplishments that he makes, he begins to gain confidence in himself, one brick at a time.  Each word of praise is like another brick that is building up his belief in himself and his abilities to try new things and learn.  His self-esteem blossoms and   his ability to learn increases.  He doesn’t even think of misbehaving, because he wants to make the right choices; he desires to have a good character.

For young children, Christmas is a time when the normal routine and schedule often gets tossed aside because of all of the added holiday activities.  Even though these activities are exciting and fun, they can often cause a lot of stress and anxiety in little ones.  Being on- stage for a Christmas pageant, or musical production can be fear-inducing in kids and cause tears or melt-downs and even loss of sleep in our children.  Many Christmas parties have cookies and candy that many kids don’t usually eat and they come under the influence of a “sugar-high”, often running around and acting more impulsively.  Staying up later than the normal bedtime will make kids more fatigued the next day, so they are not as alert and as well-behaved at school, and then they’re tired and grouchy when they get home.

On the blog, Toddler Approved, Kristina writes that children crave consistency, stability and routine.  She gives 15 Tips on How To De-Stress Young Children During the Holidays

  1. Stay with your routine as much as possible.
  2. Give warnings of transitions.
  3. Spend at least 15 minutes a day of one-on-one focused attention on a child.
  4. Don’t over schedule.  Leave time for naps and rest.  Be realistic about what your family can do.
  5. Communicate.  Sometimes children feel frustrated but they don’t have words to tell you.  Be aware of visual clues and give your child words to use.  Such as “I’m tired.”  “I’m hungry.”  Listen to them and answer their many questions.
  6. Toys.  Take their favorite toys with them through transitions or time away from home.
  7. Music.  Calming music helps children relax.  Dancing to fast music helps them release stored up energy.
  8. Laughter.  Act goofy and find humor in situations or start “tickling”.
  9. Massages.  Rub your child’s back or feet while talking soothingly to them or while listening to calming music.
  10. Deep breathing.  Say:  “Breathe in.  Hold it.  Breathe out.”  Repeat this several times.  While your child is doing this say something like:  “I feel relaxed.  I feel happy.  I feel good.”
  11. Movement.  Physical activity is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce stress and ensure that your child gets a good night’s sleep.  Play outside when possible.  Roll around on the floor and roughhouse.
  12. Blow bubbles or blow up a balloon and toss it around.  Offer a squeeze ball to tighten and relax muscles.
  13. Stay on a healthy and familiar diet.
  14. Bedtime ritual.  Share books and cuddle time before they go to sleep.  Have your child tell you what they did today.  Help them express their “walk through the day” remembering the positive, happy things that they did.
  15. Gratitude Meditation.  Help your child express gratitude for all the things they have, such as family, food, home, friends, toys, and books.  I will add- praying to God about these things.

Kristina also speaks about the issue of anxiety that many kids face at this time of the year.  We often do not realize how overwhelming it can be for children when they are in new situations where there are new people that they do not know, or with people that they don’t see that often.  Many times it can be really scary when Uncle Ernest wants Susie to sit on his lap and Susie hasn’t seen Uncle Ernest in a year.  Or Aunt Lillian won’t stop hugging Johnny and Johnny really doesn’t liked being hugged.

Kristina shares that in such situations parents should:

  • Stay in close proximity when around new people.
  • Recognize that new faces, routines, situations can be uncomfortable/stressful/scary and acknowledge that verbally and offer emotional support.
  • Be realistic with the amount of time you spend with new people/new situations or in situations that cause anxiety.
  • Bring a familiar object or find a comforting activity when you arrive at a new setting.
  • Encourage people to give your child space and wait for him/her to come to them/initiate interactions with them.
  • Don’t require expressions of affection offer choices-hug, high-five, don’t push it.  Be respectful.
  • Prepare ahead of time.
  • Take breaks.

My final point to mention is that there is nothing like having a hug from mom or dad.  I have always been big on hugging.  I still hug my 6 ft. tall sons.  They will always be “my babies”.  A hug is powerful.  Sometimes a child just needs to be hugged- no words are needed.  A hug doesn’t need words.  It communicates love, acceptance, and that the parent is “here for you”.  On the blog, Home Grown Friends, Meredith has created The Hug Jar.  It is a jar with stuffed hearts in it.  A child can go and select a heart from the jar and hand a parent the heart, whenever the child feels that she needs a hug.  What an awesome idea!

As always the Bible gives us the best advice to aid us on the road of parenting.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on your doorframe of your houses and on your gates.”  Deuteronomy 6:5-9

In other words, if we introduce our child to God and make Him a part of our child’s life, He will make a difference.  Knowing God’s laws, the Ten Commandments is important.  Even more important is that a child knows that God wants to be his friend and desires to be with him in every circumstance in his life.  A child needs to know that Jesus was born to save him from his sins.  He was born to have a personal relationship with your child that will last into eternity.

Here are some resources that I hope that you will enjoy.

Holiday Parenting Tips

The Hug Jar

4 Tips for Better Holiday Behavior

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith





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