I took S into town the other day to have a look at all the Christmas lights and trees. She loved it. We went into every shop I could think of that might sell Christmas decorations, and she wandered around, wide eyed and grinning from ear to ear. We spent twenty minutes looking at some tacky “tree” made from baubles in BHS. She was completely spellbound by it. In fact, we ended up buying a lot of Christmas tat and bringing it home to play with.
One thing I was struck by this year is the number of “Christmas behaviour charts” or “Christmas reward charts” or other ways of turning Christmas into a carrot with which to beat your child. That bloody elf on a shelf can do one as far as I’m concerned. In my house, behaviour/reward charts stink regardless of what time of year it is, but at Christmas they just seem particularly distasteful.
When I was growing up, we all got the whole “Father Christmas won’t come!” or “You’ll be on the naughty list and only get a lump of coal in your stocking!” Although it did scare us, and (usually) made us stop pulling our brothers’ hair, Father Christmas seemed to have been very ill informed, come Christmas morning. I remember one year seeing that my naughty little brother seemed to have exactly the same number of presents as me – but I was absolutely sure he had been much more naughty than me over the course of the year (I’m fairly sure my brother had undiagnosed ADHD, and were he growing up in the current climate, he’d be off his tits on Ritalin by now. I’m also fairly sure the word “naughty” was used more often than his name. It’s a reasonable assumption for an 8 year old book worm to think he’d been more naughty than her).
Growing up in the ’80s, “stop doing that or I’ll tell Father Christmas” was probably the most-heard sentence by children across the UK by mid-November. It was used when we didn’t eat our tea, when we sneaked food between meals, when we didn’t get ready for school on time or dragged our heels walking home, when we didn’t get on with our siblings, when we refused to give that uncle with the scratchy beard a kiss goodbye.
I’m wondering what parents are hoping to achieve with behaviour charts. What if your child doesn’t get all the stickers or whatever it is they’re supposed to “earn” by Christmas Eve? Will you really withhold some of his/her presents? Will you really go shopping and think “ahh, but little Johnny didn’t eat his sprouts last night, so I won’t buy that present…” Really? REALLY?
A while back, I was listening to a podcast where the lady interviewed some parenting “expert” from the US. He had a book out, so of course he knew what he was on about. He said that his daughter kept leaving her bike outside in the garden at night, where it might be stolen. He said he’d kept telling her that if she didn’t put it away it would be stolen. Then he told her, if you leave it out again, I’m going to take it and sell it to teach you a lesson. The woman asked him what he would do if his daughter left her bike out again and he said he would have no problem with selling it. “You have to be prepared to follow through,” he said. And I switched the podcast off.
I know everyone will get up and vehemently disagree with me on this, and say that behaviour/reward charts are a great way of getting children to behave or whatever. Well balls, it’s my blog and my opinion. And I think they suck. I’m not going to buy some creepy looking elf to sit on a shelf and spy on my daughter; I’d like to think I can not only teach her right from wrong, but also be understanding enough to realise that kids get a bit excited and do crazy shit at Christmas time. I don’t think it’s nice to punish them – or threaten to punish them – for being excited. All too quickly, my darling wide-eyed toddler will be a moody teenager who doesn’t give a shit about Christmas and sullenly hands me a list of expensive electronic devices for Father Christmas to bring. I want to enjoy her excitement while I can.
this post was added to Mummy Barrow’s Ranty Friday.