Manners Matter: Naughty or Nice List?

Dear Mary Pat,

My husband has used Santa’s naughty list as a motivation for better behavior from our three kids since they were toddlers. Now that they are a little older, he upped the ante and started threatening to throw presents in the fireplace if our kids don’t do as they are told. They don’t know that he has a couple of empty boxes wrapped, but it still seems extreme.  Or is it the equivalent of threatening coal in their stockings as when I was growing up?


Mrs. Claus

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.


Dear Mrs. Claus,

Even though bribery and threats are not the best parenting tools, parents are human and they sometimes have to resort to negotiating. My advice would be to discuss it further with your husband and get on the same page. A united front is the best tool in your parenting toolbox. It depends on the age and sensitivity of your kids, and on how well they listen. Sometimes just the threat is enough to have them fall in line. I remember that my grandpa used to tell us he had a spanking machine in the attic. Our eyes would grow really big and our behavior  improved instantaneously. My dad also would threaten to take all of the shoes we left at the front door and put them in a big box and give them away at the end of the month. This was only after my mom asked us day after day to put our shoes in the closet where no one would trip over them. We were a lot more motivated when my dad threatened to give our shoes away. There may have been a threat to throw them in a bonfire, come to think of it; he was ahead of his time. Needless to say, our shoes were never burned or given away.

I’m sure you’ll decide together the best way to keep the kiddos in line before Santa shows. After the 25th, you’ll have to come up with another plan for the rest of the year and perhaps one that includes positive reinforcement.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

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