10 Responses to 'Have you been good for Santa?'
Christmas / Parenting

10 Responses to ‘Have you been good for Santa?’

10 Responses to 'Have you been good for Santa?'

I love almost everything about the holiday season. The decorating, the food, the time with people we love, the spirit. So much fun!

Everything except one thing. One thing that happens almost every time we leave the house.

The question.

If you’re a child in public you get the question. Or the warning. No one seems immune!

It sounds something like this…

‘Have you been a good girl/boy this year?’

‘Are you being good for Mummy today?’

‘You know Santa only comes to good children, don’t you?’

‘Santa’s watching you know! I hope you’re being good!’

What’s wrong with people being friendly?

I know, I know, people are ‘just trying to be nice’! They really are, I agree. Most of them have good intentions, that’s true.

The thing is, this type of ‘nice’ is unnecessary at best. At worst, it’s manipulative, frightening, perpetuates a societal view of children as inferior, and encourages the belief that children need to be controlled and coerced into being ‘good’ people.

10 Responses to 'Have you been good for Santa?'

How would it feel to have people remarking on, judging, and questioning your behaviour every time you were in public? To be conspiring against you with others to try to get you to do what they want? To talk about you/your behaviour as if you weren’t even present? To threaten you (nicely, if there’s such a thing) about what will happen if you don’t comply? To be treated as if the most important thing about you is if you are obedient and compliant?

When you think about it, it’s really absurd that we can honestly think this is ok. Children are people and deserve the same respect as anyone else. This behaviour is really not acceptable.

Am I serious? Yes.

Sure, I could ‘lighten up’. Or I could be my child’s advocate and ally.

Instead of saying nothing, smiling awkwardly, or engaging in judging my child based on their behaviour, I can respond in a way that validates and respects my child. I can make it clear that I don’t hold the same beliefs. Maybe I’ll even make people reconsider their words and ideas. I’m ok with that.

10 Responses to ‘Have You Been Good?’

10 Responses to 'Have you been good for Santa?'

Below are some ideas for what you can say to people who ask the dreaded question, ‘have you been a good girl/boy?’, of your child. Not all of them will feel comfortable for everyone, and it depends on the situation and your goals. Sometimes you might be open to explaining your reasoning, sometimes you might just want to end the conversation. Pick what works for you!

  1. “All children are good”
  2. “Oh we don’t believe in that”
  3. “We don’t do the naughty and nice stuff”
  4. “We don’t worry about that silly story”
  5. “We’re not into labelling people”
  6. “It’s ok, they know that’s just something adults say to get kids to do what they want”
  7. “Oh, we don’t threaten them. They know Christmas is for everyone”
  8. “What about you? Have YOU been good?”
  9. “It’s strange how many people are asking you that, isn’t it? You don’t have to answer” (to the child)
  10. “It’s ok, there’s no such thing as a naughty list” (to the child)

What’s better than ‘have you been good’?

Almost anything.

I think many people ask this question simply because it is what they know. Everyone does it. It’s just what you do at Christmas time. But our words matter.

There are many other ways you can interact with children, just the same as you can with an adult. Why not simply ask ‘are you looking forward to Christmas?’, or ‘what is your favourite part of the holidays?’, or ‘who will you be spending this Christmas with?’ Those would be much more respectful (and interesting!) questions.

10 Responses to 'Have you been good for Santa?'

If we want to change how children are treated, if we want to take a stand against childism, then the little things matter. The words we use have an impact.

Sure, it’s only for a couple of months a year and parents have a much bigger impact than strangers. Yes, these instances are rare in the scheme of things, and we can debrief with them afterwards, which is important too. But we can also show our children we are not afraid to speak up for them or to stand for what we believe in. We can question this ‘tradition’ and make a difference.

Change has to start somewhere.

“As parents, we can choose to be on the frontlines of change. We can choose to change our frame of reference and reject cultural norms of control and domination of children.” -Teresa Graham Brett, Parenting for Social Change

10 Responses to 'Have you been good for Santa?'


November 27, 2017 at 2:05 am

“My child is wonderful even *without* the threat of coal in their stocking!”

November 27, 2017 at 7:25 am

Please don’t ever “lighten up” 🙂 I just wanted to say this, now off to go read the rest.

December 1, 2017 at 6:05 am

Thank you, I will use some of these!
Now I just need a response to “what is Santa going to bring you?”/“what did you ask Santa for?” (Santa visits our house, but we try to pay attention to things that have caught their interest during the year and give thoughtful surprises, rather than the “I want…” list.)

December 6, 2017 at 11:58 am

Great post, with a 2 and 4 year old I am getting more and more uncomfortable with the undertones of Christmas: having to “be good”, it’s all about gifts, etc. I appreciate the options of responses and will definitely use some of those!
I wonder how you deal with the excessive gift-focus and the feeling that christmas is all about “stuff” shoved down our society’s throats through marketing? I love giving gifts and also seeing my kids open gifts but I don’t really know what to say when trying to explain how the Santa thing works with my young’ens, and how to encourage more of a quality time and love-excitement-joy thing. Any thoughts?

December 24, 2017 at 5:18 pm

My kids at 4 and 2 are usually asked this by strangers and are a little shy, so smile I answer for them, “Always!” and let people take that how they will.

December 25, 2019 at 2:43 am

These alternatives are great. The only one that makes me cringe is “We don’t worry about that silly story.” As much as you are trying to protect your families beliefs with these statements saying that while other children are around can negate theirs however unintentional. How about stopping at “We don’t worry about that.” And leaving the judgement about it being silly off.

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