Christmas Carrots & Sticks
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.


Vicky is a mother, a blogger, a podcaster and a social media trainer. She writes about life as a single mother, parenting and lifestyle type things.

14 Comments · 15/11/2013 at 08:34

Oh wow, can't see myself ever using a behaviour chart for a child, my parents seemed to manage just fine without using them, but Christmas behaviour charts…. wow, the person who came up with this idea needs to go and sit on the thinking step…! #RantyFriday · 15/11/2013 at 09:32

Just clicked over from Jaime's site to see who the writer of the briliant Blue vs Pink post was… and find it's you and that I just left a comment on this post earlier too…. promise I'm not stalking you, but very glad to have discovered your blog today!

Crystal Jigsaw · 15/11/2013 at 10:07

I never used behaviour charts either. Apart from the fact my daughter has autism and behaviour charts are a waste of time in her life, I don't think they're necessary if a child is being brought up properly. I see them as a form of bribery to be honest.

chickywiggle · 15/11/2013 at 11:05

woops, we use behaviour chats (some of the time) and I do find they work. We also have an elf on the shelf but he doesn't "sit and spy" the children love him. I'll be blogging about him this year, hopefully you'll see the fun he can be? Like most things they are what you make them. (sorry)

anna · 15/11/2013 at 11:23

I never realised thats what the elf on the shelf is all about! I thought he's just some creepy looking elf that people like to put up at xmas time! I agree with you actually – xmas is not the time for behaviour charts, and some parents over use them although I think they do have their uses when used for more specific things?

Sanghamitra Bhattacherjee(Mukherjee) · 15/11/2013 at 11:51

Beautiful blog!<br />First time here and loving it.<br />Hope to see you on my blog:)

MummyNeverSleeps · 15/11/2013 at 12:53

Really great post dude. I use incentives as rewards but totally agree, the run up to christmas for little ones is magical, it&#39;s what they look forward to ALL year and surely we have to take that into account and keep hold of it with both hands while it lasts

thedoubleparent · 15/11/2013 at 14:16

As I said before, ranty posts are the best. I couldn&#39;t agree with you more on this one.

mummyglitzer · 15/11/2013 at 15:06

Ah I thought the Elf on the Shelf thing was just to cause general mischief as entertainment for the children not as a spy!<br /><br />And yes we have at times used reward charts. Most recently when despite six months of being fine to wee on the toilet my son still demanded a nappy/pull up for poo. As soon as we brought in a reward chart, bamn. We don&#39;t have one on the go at the moment as

MummyBarrow · 15/11/2013 at 15:18

oooh controversial indeed! Can&#39;t say I agree as I find that behaviour charts are brilliant. I dont agree with taking things away that have been earned such as &quot;50p if you are good&quot; and then when they are naughty later in the week &quot;right, I am having that 50p back&quot;. But I do think there is a place for behaviour charts if they are right for your child. <br /><br />

Karen Reekie · 15/11/2013 at 16:17

Have you seen the Elf on A Shelf thing, that is big in the US, and coming here, slowly? An elf, that sits and watches you for a whole month, to report back to Santa, if you have been good or not? That&#39;s even worse and creepier!! <br />I think reward charts can have a place, when used right, but not as a &quot;get your kids to behave for Christmas thing&quot;.<br />Popped over from Mummy

Clairejustine oxox · 15/11/2013 at 18:12

Ha I remember the &quot;you wont get no presents off Santa and him still bringing them me :)<br /><br />Thanks for sharing at the weekend blog hop :)

SarahMummy · 15/11/2013 at 19:22

I never even knew what an Elf on the Shelf was – they sound horrific! I&#39;ve used reward charts for my kids for short-term things and they&#39;ve worked for us, but they&#39;ve never been related to Christmas. That sounds quite harsh.

LearnerMother · 15/11/2013 at 21:50

Elf on the Shelf? Sounds like it&#39;s designed to give kids nightmares! ….but reward charts get used from time to time in our house, and they seem to work ok especially if it&#39;s to tackle a specific issue. I must confess I have used the line &#39;you need to be good for Father Christmas&#39; before…it does work in a tight spot!!

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