As a parent, it can be tempting to try to eliminate bad behavior around the holidays by threatening your kids with the age-old Christmas legend: Only good children get presents from Santa — he watches your behavior all year to put you either on the Naughty or Nice List, and if you’re bad, you land on the Naughty List with coal instead of presents.
While most parents don’t take it past the threat, ultimately leaving presents from Santa under the tree, this Reddit mom is considering following through with a coal delivery due to her 9- and 6-year-olds’ continuous bad behavior. She explains that they’ve been “pushing my limits the past few months … [and] I told them they would get coal if they didn’t stop. I plan on doing so in order to make my point then letting them have their presents and Santa once the point is made so they know I am serious and not going to allow their disrespect.”
She continues, “But I’ve never done this. Should I give them coal in bed then leave presents under the tree? Put coal under the tree then get presents out of the closet? I don’t wanna ruin the magic but I also wanna make a point.” Clearly at her wit’s end, she asks, “Idk, am I being cruel? Just looking for advice and thoughts.”
Most Redditors met her with gentle criticism and alternative advice. One user wrote, “If you must make a point, make a point — because then there’s no point to the coal if in the end they get it all anyway.” They pivot, continuing, “Personally, I wouldn’t use Christmas as a punishment. I would deal with whatever the issue is in the moment. … If let’s say they’re talking back or hitting each other how is waiting for Christmas to punish them with coal and then giving them presents anyway going to teach them not to do that?”
Another Redditor commented, “Expecting children to behave for presents is not teaching them anything. It’s essentially bribery. It’s your job as a parent to teach children how to control their own behavior and continue to improve skills like good judgment and decision making. … I cannot fathom giving a child coal and even more I cannot imagine this being a long term solution to your children’s behavioral issues.”
“Don’t use gifts or Santa as leverage,” another user agreed. “Work on strengthening your own discipline skills through positive reinforcement and consistency. I would also try to avoid ‘threats’ of this kind as then you feel bound to them,” they wrote, suggesting, “Maybe start reframing things as ‘If you can manage yourselves better in ____ situation, we will have a fun day together on Saturday as a reward’ etc.”
A few users shared their experience of being a child whose parents did give them coal for Christmas, with one user explaining, “So one Christmas as a kid I received a piece of coal in my stocking. Everything else was the same, I still received presents, but it absolutely traumatized me into thinking I was a bad kid. My mom still says she wishes she never did it. I would 100% never do this to my kids.”
Sharing a similar experience, another Redditor recalled, “My parents put fake coal in my stocking one year and I still remember it and it hurts my feelings/ pisses me off still to think about. I can’t remember anything else I got that year. Actually I don’t remember anything else from that year at all.”
Another parent offered some alternative solutions, including a “ticket” system they’ve had success with for their own kids. They wrote, “I hate the idea of punishing kids on the holidays. Ground them. Take away tv for a week. But, they are too young and your punishment is too abstract. … I instituted a ticket system where I would give them tickets for being helpful and polite. They love earning them. They earn enough, they can buy a toy at Target. (25=$5, 100=30, teaching them to save up too… It functions as their allowance essentially, as they only get 1-2 tickets a day, and they can’t predict what will earn them a ticket!).”
One Redditor offered another unique idea, musing, “Assuming they believe in Santa (9yo I would question) and you have a wood burning fireplace, I could see coming up with a more elaborate ritual behind the coal.” They continued, “Leave a ‘letter’ from Santa letting them know that their presents weren’t delivered, but that he’s left a magic lump of coal. If they burn the magic coal with a spirit of repentance in their hearts, he’ll come back with their presents another day. Then you let them sweat it out for a day before the presents get delivered.”
If you’re finding yourself in the “frustrated parent” category this holiday season, know you’re not alone, and perhaps try implementing some of Reddit’s advice into your life. If all else fails, lock yourself in your room with a glass of spiked eggnog and put Christmas Vacation on repeat… Kidding! (Sort of.)
Before you go, check out some of Reddit’s most jaw-dropping Thanksgiving stories.
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