This is Why Santa's Naughty and Nice Lists are Toxic

I did a post earlier listing 5 reasons why we don't do Santa Claus, but here is another reason why we don't do Santa and I felt it deserved a post of its own.

Santa's Message of Giving is Misguided

Santa Claus only gives toys to children who are "good" or "nice." This is manipulation, using a toy to get kids to be good. His toys aren't presents, but rewards or prizes in exchange for good behavior, which is also vague as "good" and "naughty" is in the eye of the beholder. This is not what true gifting is about.

Scary Mommy shared a post on their Facebook about why threatening your child with Santa isn't okay, and I was appalled at some of the comments. So many parents were actually for threatening their children and some even claimed they went as far as taking away Santa Claus or having him bring a lump of coal.

I've been called a Grinch because we don't do Santa, but these people take the cake! It's like the whole reason these parents even do Santa is just so they have an excuse to bully their children. If I had a dime for every time I heard "Don't make me call Santa," I would be rich!

Many were also arguing "well that's how Santa works." Admitting that he only gives gifts to "nice" children, so why should they give their kids gifts from Santa if they have been "naughty?"

This message of giving is toxic. These parents are showing their children that presents are only given if the person does what they want. This isn't in the spirit of giving at all. This is manipulation or a reward-based system, not a true gift.

It's also setting up your child with unrealistic expectations. Sometimes people do good things and aren't rewarded. In fact, you should want to do good deeds without getting something in return. We need more Phoebe Buffay's in the world.

So what to do instead?

If you still want to do Santa, then don't threaten your child. Don't tell or scream at them that you are going to call Santa. Don't even talk about them being naughty or nice (which have very vague definitions depending on who is judging the child).

Simply tell them Santa will bring them a gift because he is a nice person. He wants every boy and girl to have a toy because giving gifts makes others happy which makes him happy. That is the true meaning of giving. That is the spirit of Christmas!

Remember, Santa isn't real. He's fictional. You can play him however you like. That means you can make him a nice guy. He doesn't have to be the judgemental jerk that society has created. You can change his toxic message of giving to a better one and teach your child that gifts are given out of kindness and love with no strings attached, with no expectations. They are not rewards.

Bonus Resource

Check out this awesome Mental Health ad from NAMI where Santa realizes and admits that he has been doing it all wrong, that the naughty and nice list is toxic.

Post a Comment


  1. I enjoyed reading your perspective on this - I hadn't thought about it like that before!

  2. I totally agree with this! We do Santa in our house, but our Santa does not watch the children all month long or only give them gifts if they are good. I tell them that sometimes parents get frustrated and tell their kids that because they don't know how to get their kids to behave, but we believe that's wrong in our house. We tell them that Santa brings gifts as a way to show love to all children and to make them feel special. In our house Santa and our Elf on the Shelf only listen when you tell them you want to talk to them (because consent matters!), and they're there to hear your thoughts and special Christmas gift wishes. I really hate the idea of making my kids feel like they have to earn a holiday. They absolutely don't. And they shouldn't feel like making mistakes or making bad decisions automatically earns horrible consequences. Sometimes the best consequence is learning how to make amends, take responsibility, or deal with a sticky situation you got yourself into with your bad choice. As their parent, I'm here to teach them how to be kind, responsible, functioning humans... not force them into a box labeled "always good" and then give them presents to reward perfection.

    1. I love how you do Santa and the Elf! That sounds like a really healthy way to do it.

  3. I do love reading a new perspective on Santa. I don't really remember my parent using it as a threat, but I have seen it used that way.

  4. Wow, I had never really thought about it like that. I actually really agree with you, thanks so much for sharing your point of view.

    Xoxo - Elizabeth

  5. This is a very moving post. Not having children and not remember that my parents ever used the "only nice children get presents" I hadn't really given this "naughty or nice" any thought. But reading your perspective on how this holiday should be about giving and not judging or threatening is very inspiring and moving. Thank you.

  6. I almost forgot the impact Santa's power can have on children in the sense that it is manipulative to a point if used just for that. Good ideas and feedback.

  7. I totally agree 100%. I think parents these days are getting too carried away on the whole Santa thing. Thankfully, my toddler knows that Santa isn't real... :-)

  8. I have grown children now. I never used the nice or naughty list. However, I did use the do you think bad people get things. This is for a reason to teach them not to be bad people in society. To not get in trouble at school or out in the streets because it will land you in jail. It's important to talk to your kids and have a way for them to see this. Maybe Santa is the wrong way but I never used that I talk to them and let them understand why people said that. It's clear where you are coming from and that is why we all parent differently.

    1. Unfortunately bad people do get things. I was bullied and the bully always got something from "Santa," so that's also why we don't do Santa as Santa. I had a pretty bad experience growing up and I think it's better to just keep him fictional.


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