Typically if we tell Nick he has to do (or stop doing) something in order to get something he wants, he will do it. We tell him if he is a good boy at the grocery store, he will get a chocolate milk when we are finished. If he steps out of line, we remind him of his reward, and he is, 99% of the time, very good. And he gets his chocolate milk.
We have been trying to tell him that Santa only brings presents to GOOD boys and girls. “Why?” Nick asks. “Because only good boys and girls are deserving of presents,” we say. “But why?” he asks again. “Because Santa made the rules and that’s what they are!” I was exacerbated.
Yesterday afternoon, we had planned to take him to get his picture taken with Santa, then we were going to a picnic at the park with some high school friends of mine, their husbands, and kids, and I was really looking forward to catching up with the girls. Nick was really looking forward to a “picpic” in the park.
We got to the shopping centre and Santa was on break. We were told he’d be back in 20 minutes. Since he’s right outside BigW, we ventured in to check a few things out. Cutting a very long story short here, I was separated from my husband and son. I was standing at the front door, trying to call husband to say Santa was back, when they come walking up, husband looking like he is about to explode. Nick had run off on him and wasn’t stopping, coming back, or listening to anything he was being told. “Take us home,” says my husband. No Santa, no picnic.
We had been threatening that he would not see Santa, and would not go to the picnic if he was naughty. He had been naughty. And one thing we always said we would do, is follow through with threats. I was absolutely livid. We had fought our way through this shopping centre to get to Santa. It is 3 weeks until Christmas, the last place I want to be any time during the next 3 weeks is the shopping centre. Now we have no picture with Santa, have to fight our way back to the car past people dawdling* to go where, home? So that we can all be miserable at each other? I stormed back to the car, carrying Nick, trying to think how I could salvage the afternoon. I was not going to the picnic on my own so that I could come home to an even more frustrated husband and son. I’d barely seen them all weekend as it was, this was supposed to be our relaxing, nice afternoon. When we got to the car, I told Nick that if he wanted to go to the picnic, he had to give daddy a cuddle and say sorry for running away and not listening to him. He did that, and we went to the picnic and had a nice afternoon.
But the lesson has been learned. From this point forward, we do not use things we want for behaviour modification purposes. Because we really do want to carry out with our threats, so that he knows we are serious and that he can’t just get everything he wants, regardless of his behaviour. But we want to make sure we aren’t punished in the process!
And for the record, 3 and a half may be too young to use Santa as a threat, as he has no real interest in seeing Santa. But I’ve made him get a photo with Santa every year, even when he really didn’t want to and almost screamed all of Pacific Fair down at 18 months old. But that’s a whole other story.