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Naughty or Nice?

By sylviagrace
December 08, 2008

Practical parenting suggestions for transforming old messages of conditional love that come up at Christmas (and the year through)!

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

I am astounded at Christmas time, how much talk there is about being “good or bad,” “naughty or nice.”  At first I edited books while reading, skipping over those parts in stories I read my children.  I even deleted the above song from our Ipod.  But there is no escaping these messages at Christmastime!  As we bring up songs and traditions from a different stage of our human development, we are often also bringing up old wounded forms of control.   

And to be honest, I understand why a song like this may still feel compelling to some.  When our children are being their spirited, rowdy, raucous, exploring, “getting into trouble” little souls, it is easy to wish for something, anything that will help you gain some control.  This also comes at a time when we may be more stressed or busy than usual, and our children are responding to this and reflecting it in their behavior. So when Christmas gets a little ‘crazy,’ it’s easy for many parents to think of Santa as a helpful tool to get children to “behave.”

Unfortunately, when parents use this concept of a “good” or “bad” child, children learn that Love is conditional.  My husband and I recently discussed the “false confidence” we both experienced in childhood as a result of this type of message .  When we were praised, or on the “good” side of things, our joy and confidence was present, but it was always fleeting. We knew there was always the possibility of being “bad” and that at some point we would lose the love we so needed.  When I remember what it was like to grow up this way, feeling that my worth was dependent on how well I acted, I am reminded that I prefer authentic behavior over “good” behavior.  I prefer that my children know that they are worthy, lovable, beautiful and beloved simply because of who they are; little lights shining in this world.

So, at Christmastime, I am especially discerning about what types of activities we engage in to avoid these messages.  But now that my children are older, I am also learning to use these times as an opportunity to correct that old and limited thinking.

When we read or hear such good/bad concepts, I explain it as “how someone is acting;” whether they are acting like themselves, true to their good nature, or acting apart from their nature in fear.  I may also remind them that we are all filled with love and light, no matter how we are acting. and that God’s love and peace are always available to us when we open our hearts.   (my personal beliefs, feel free to insert yours :)

I am also learning that because we do not function from this conditional love mindset, my children are able to gloss over much of this old thought more easily than I might.  Or they may play it out in a silly way, exploring the general black and white or dreamlike thinking that is common for their age. So sometimes, I simply notice if my child has a reaction or question.  I may say nothing, or offer to answer any question they may have.  This way, I do not put too much focus on the old thought and make it bigger than it is.

As with everything else, I trust their wisdom. I know they can work out many of their conflicts through play and their own connection to their souls. And I know when they are unsure they will come to me for more hugs, reassurance, or understanding.  

I smile in the knowing that love is stronger than fear. That we can surrender control, and celebrate the truth and beauty that exists in the timeless messages of Love, Joy, Peace, Compassion and Hope that this season holds.


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