We all pretty much grew up on the song “Santa Claus is coming to town” by Michael Bublé during the Holidays.
Not much is thought of it and it may be a part of the holiday tradition to listen to songs like this one.
But as I have come to understand how the subconscious mind and belief system works, how it is shaped in childhood, and how it is that those experiences still affect how we perceive ourselves and the world today, in part through the training for Peaceful Parent Coaching and my interest in the work of Daniel Siegel, Alfie Kohn, Carl Jung, and Peter Levine, the lyrics of this song, in particular, is quite disturbing.
“You better watch out.
You better not cry.
You better not pout.
I’m telling you why.
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He’s making a list.
He’s checking it twice.
He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He sees you when you’re sleeping.
And he knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good.
So be good for goodness sake.”
The message in this song is clear to me. You need to behave to be worthy of gifts (or anything that brings you joy)
And behaviors are the biggest topic within the parenting world, especially within traditional parenting, which is heavily focused on correcting unwanted behavior. And this song and all the stories about Santa and good/bad kids is completely supporting the traditional “power over” parenting paradigm.
How the message is perceived by our children however is that they don’t feel good enough, worthy enough, accepted enough, and/or loved enough, because their behaviors are communication for needs or other factors that have not been met but are misinterpreted by us as something “bad” (AKA that what makes us uncomfortable) and so only the surface layers (the behavior) is dealt with and so they learn from us and our reactions that that part of them is an unacceptable part of themselves even though it is instinctual (a part of being human) to act out a certain way to get needs met is dependent on a parent/caregiver. This fosters internal shame if they yet again do something they couldn’t help because it was out of their conscious control. And if the needs don’t get met or only half met and only at times when convenient to the parent/caregiver, this can cause trust issues too, adding on to the behavior the child expresses, that we so dearly wish to minimize. No
If you have needs that go unmet for long periods and your partner is not understanding what you need, even though you do express it the best way you can at that moment gets mad at you and punishes you by ignoring you, or smacking you, or taking away their love, how does that impact how you feel within and about yourself, and your relationship with your partner?
This is how our misunderstanding of our children’s behavior and the way it is dealt with affects our relationship with our children. And most importantly, the relationship the child has with himself.
So instead of using Santa as leverage to get the child to behave the way we want them to. Which is mostly guided by our subconscious, our triggers and emotional wounding we experienced as a child ourselves, and by developmentally inappropriate expectations. Why not start with trying to understand the reason behind the behavior?