Respectful Parenting at Christmas Time
Christmas / Parenting

Respectful Parenting at Christmas Time

Respectful Parenting at Christmas Time

I LOVE Christmas! Almost everything about it! It’s such an exciting time of the year. You all know I’m about respectful parenting and I feel like Christmas is a time with a few traditions and customs to be extra mindful of! So this is what we’re focusing on this year…

Let them decorate

I’ve already talked about this one, you can read it here. Let them decorate! They should be involved and you’ll have loads of fun!

Kick the Elf off the shelf

I really dislike this Elf thing that is all the rage now. The whole reporting back to Santa thing? No. Don’t do that. Also included in this category: phoney calls from Santa threatening kids to be good, video messages from Santa telling kids they need to pick up their game, etc. I don’t need to explain why this isn’t respectful I don’t think but you can read more about unconditional parenting here if you like.

Respectful Parenting at Christmas Time

Don’t force photos with Santa

A screaming child on a strangers lap is not funny. My big kids like getting photos with Santa but sometimes they have cried when little. They have been fine and happy until I stepped back for them to take a photo and then started crying. The people taking the photo often will try to distract them with toys and continue taking photos but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. Scoop in there and pick them up! Or jump in with them and have a photo if they’re ok with that instead. But don’t force it! For one thing we don’t want to be encouraging kids not to listen to their instincts when they’re clearly feeling uncomfortable with a situation. And it’s also not respectful to be snapping photos of them when they’re clearly distressed, right?

Talk about what will happen on Christmas Day

Christmas is a busy time with lots going on and a lot of chances for kids to become overwhelmed! All of a sudden they’ve reached their limit and you’ve been so busy that you’ve missed the early warning signs until they’re at breaking point. Been there! We’ve been discussing a lot about our plans and also involving them in the planning process. It’s much more fun to decide what we’re doing together. They also know what to expect from the day which will hopefully help things go more smoothly.

Respectful Parenting at Christmas Time

Let them open presents at their own pace

Sometimes the sheer amount of presents kids get is overwhelming! One Christmas my then 3 year old sat down in the middle of the floor and refused to open any more. It was all too much! I think we were all so excited to watch her open things we were pushing her along at our pace. ‘Don’t open the box yet, just finish opening your presents’, ‘what else have you got there?’, ‘open this one next!’. Eek! Now we are careful to slow down and let things unfold (or unwrap) at their own pace.

Say ‘no’ to forced affection

Christmas means family! That’s a good thing! We want our kids to love our extended family like we do but we must remember to give them time and space and always respect their bodily autonomy. We want to respect their right to say ‘No’. And we want them to feel complete ownership over their own body. This is SO important. Here’s a great post that talks about bodily autonomy in more detail.

Respectful Parenting at Christmas Time

That’s how we’re trying to ensure Christmas is a happy and respectful occasion in our house! What about you?


December 22, 2015 at 7:56 pm

We went to see Santa last night here in the UK. Children don’t sit on his lap anymore here and we decided that all the family was going to be in the photo – we love having a record of everyone year after year – my daughter is also much happier that way too! We also had the added bonus meeting Kate and Prince George who were also there!

December 23, 2015 at 1:04 am

I love your blog Sara. It’s so good to read another parent speaking about respecting our children. I saw that Elf thing in the shops the other day and just thought it looked weird, I had no idea the whole idea of it was about reporting back to Santa..that’s yucky!
What I also find yucky is when the children visit Santa and he says, “Have you been a good boy?”. One year, our son answered, “It doesn’t matter if I have or not, my mummy loves me anyway!”

December 23, 2015 at 6:39 am

I really hate the Elf on the Shelf, for every possible reason you can think of. This list is excellent, and to be honest I think it could basically be re-titled “Respectful Humaning at Christmas”. Knowing what is going to happen is a really important thing for me when I’m doing something new – this year I’m going to my not-yet-in-laws for Christmas and my partner has been really good about giving me an idea of the shape of the days. Your point about bodily autonomy is SO crucial; we can’t go from “Give Uncle Henry a kiss!” to “no means no” without causing massive confusion.

December 23, 2015 at 9:19 am

I have a love hate relationship with “respectful” parenting – not least the name but it’s so nice to see common sense around Christmas. Forced affection is not nice, it’s criminal to me. Elf on the shelf is creepy and yes Christmas day is stressful.

Looking forward to reading more

December 26, 2015 at 1:17 pm

We have always been clear that our kids don’t have to do anything they feel uncomfortable about. My eldest daughter never liked giving hugs much, and that was fine with us, but my inlaws were hurt. But imagine their surprise and joy this year when she decided to hug everybody. WE could just see in their eyes how precious that hug was.

November 2, 2016 at 1:20 pm

I’m parenting a daughter who will be three this December. It feels disrespectful to me to lie about Santa as a real dude bringing presents to kids. But I also don’t want her to be “that kid” who tells everyone Santa’s not real or miss out on the fun…. She really likes the Rudolph story, for example. So far I’ve kind of positioned Santa as a story but I know family this year will ask what Santa brought her/she’s old enough to start wondering what’s up with Santa this year. I’d love your thoughts on this.

    November 2, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    I was just going to post the same thing! I struggle with this every single year. (5, 4 & 3 year old). I do not lie about anything to them and this has been so since they were born. I have never been one to say eg “oh no the soft play is closed”, I would say “we are not going in today because x, y, z” or whatever. The truth is so important to my parenting even when it’s quite brutal truth sometimes (in some people’s eyes).

    And yet this Santa thing. I want to tell them it’s not true. And then at the same time I feel like ‘everyone does it’ and would I be letting them down somehow to tell them the truth? But equally wonder how betrayed they will feel when they realise the truth.

      December 2, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      I have always struggled with this – and I also have never wanted to lie to my kids! I made a deal with myself when my eldest was a baby that I would always answer questions with the best age-appropriate version of the truth I could.
      So, we never pushed the Santa thing. We would wrap a small gift (with no tag) and place it on their bed Christmas Eve, but always made sure not to make a big deal about it.
      We told them the real story of St Nicholas, and how that’s where the Santa stories came from.
      When my eldest was 3 she straight out asked me if Santa was real, and so first I asked her what she thought, then I explained that the Santas that we see at the shops are real people, and that they are there to spread Christmas cheer, but that no, there is no one Santa that flies on a sleigh around the world delivering presents.
      The following year she was happy to go along with it when anyone mentioned Santa, as she understood the idea behind it – being generous and giving.
      It’s hard when you have family and friends who really push it, but we just make sure to tell them that not everyone celebrates Christmas the same way we do, which isn’t so hard because being Christians, we often have that conversation about people having different beliefs etc!
      It’s been the same with the Easter Bunny lol

November 9, 2017 at 8:30 pm

Don’t take the is Santa real thing too seriously, make it a critical thinking game. Kids need a few harmless lies to help them with salesmen, junk food pictures, dodgy phone scams and cults, kids see through them and realise things need questioning. Look at time zones, could santa make it around the world? How do Raindeer fly. Kids will work it out for themselves, while still retaining the magic for a few years. I still liked to get a stocking at 15, being the youngest in the family by far I was the last to get one, there’s something lovely about it long after you’ve stopped believing.

Samantha F.
November 19, 2017 at 12:24 am

I wholeheartedly agree with your whole list. I just wanted to say we use the Elf as a special agent who helps spread Christmas Cheer. Our Elf doesn’t watch behavior or report back to santa but it moves and suggests ideas on how to be more kind. I think the moving of it can be super fun but my kids know they get presents no matter what. I cringe every time a cashier or adult asks them if they’ve been good.

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