Naughty or nice?

We protest mightily to any possibility of our lives being spied upon, traced, monitored, and kept track of.  We want our whereabouts to be kept private and our comings and goings to be off the grid.  For many, imagining that the government, big brother, or any other external entity has the ability to observe our every move is a chilling prospect.

So it is puzzling to me why the same doesn’t always hold true when it comes to what we tell our children.

“You better watch out.
You better not cry.
You better not pout.
I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!”

Yes, these are the lyrics to a well-known Christmas tune, one which is being sung over and over and over again to many children this time of year, especially in the few weeks leading up to Christmas Day, the day that the fat man with the white beard and red coat slides down the chimneys of all the houses in the world to give gifts to those boys and girls who have been good.  You know, those special children who have earned it and who deserve it.

And apparently the monumental job of keeping tabs on the do-gooders and wrong-doers has gotten too big for Santa.  Now he has elicited the assistance of an elf, an elf who sits on a shelf inside the homes of families around the world and reports back to Santa on a daily basis who is being naughty and who is being nice, which, as we all know, has a direct correlation to the amount of presents, if any, children stand to receive.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite fond of the jolly old fella and enjoy the magic and wonderment his character brings to the holidays.  I’m just wondering, could our children be given a better opportunity within which to understand what gift-giving is truly about?   Do they need to be spied upon, their choices tallied up by an elf who sits on a shelf, and their actions judged so harshly by this mysterious man who visits once a year and his loyal round-the-clock sidekick?   How do we expect our children to grasp larger concepts like a nonjudgmental God when we continue to throw ideas like a judgmental Santa Claus at them?

Isn’t one of the main reasons we struggle so much in our relationships because somewhere along the way we have been taught that in order to get something, we must give something or do something or be something?  We withhold our love when we think we are not receiving the love of another.  Maybe the best gifts we could give to a child are an appreciation for the gift of life itself, a deeper knowing of why we are all here in the first place, and the experience of giving and receiving in the spirit of love and compassion instead of one that is mired down by the heavy weight of consumerism and laced with lofty expectations.

If we tell our children that if they don’t behave, Santa won’t bring presents; or if we tell our children if they don’t straighten up, the policeman will take them away to jail; or if we tell our children if they aren’t good, God won’t let them into heaven, what is the underlying message we are really conveying to our kids?

(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation. She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team at, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at

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