Santa is Real: A case for keeping Santa traditions alive and NOT for discipline’s sake

Last year around this time I started questioning our family tradition of Santa Clause. My eldest son “knew” Santa wasn’t real and it caused him some heartbreak.  His letdown took me right back to my own disappointment when I learned my parents and not, Santa brought my sister and me toys on Christmas Eve.  I was dejected and lost a lot of faith in my world.  I felt “unhinged.”  



So, I wondered how necessary it was to repeat that history with my youngest two children.  Santa is attached to discipline notions of the 19th century.  He is the ultimate authority with the power to “see you when you’re sleeping.”  And you are rewarded or punished (with coal in your sock) based on your behavior.  This belief was especially helpful in cold and wet or snowy December when many children come down with cabin fever.



Santa is Watching

I admit to scolding my first-born with, “Santa is watching” if he threw a toy or a tantrum in December.  I prescribed to the bribe of Santa, especially with my oldest because he was difficult to manage.  Any tool was better than an out-of-control little person.

But, the reason I’ve decided to keep Santa alive in our house has nothing to do with the discipline tool he provides by default. 


An Alternate Reality

Nope, I’m keeping Santa alive because he provided me with an alternate reality in my youth.  Santa allowed a 7-year-old to harness the power of her focus and subconscious mind, and bring an advertiser’s vision to life.  The lesson of the mind’s power is worth more than all the presents “Santa” ever gave me, combined.

I recall one Christmas Eve living at Ft. Detrick with my family.  Long after my parents had gone to bed I heard noises downstairs.  I crept halfway down the stairs to see the soft glow of the Christmas tree lights and a large shadow.  The big, round shadow just had to be Santa!  I raced back up the stairs and into my sister’s bed-too afraid to stay in my own room.  And then, I saw him!  My head was halfway under my pillow in the pitch black but Santa was checking that we were tucked in!  I heard his boots clomp down the hallway after he was sure we slept.




Another year my sister and I heard noises on our roof Christmas Eve.  We both identified them as reindeer hooves!  One Christmas Eve when we lived in Colorado Springs, my sister and I stayed up all night to catch Santa’s elves leave presents at the foot of our bed.  Unfortunately, we fell asleep before they materialized.  


How Santa Became My Reality

What’s interesting about all of those “belief” years was how well my brain could interpret my reality as one in which Santa existed.  I had scripts running through my mind that explained all the “elves” at the mall who sat in as Santa for children’s photos, for example.  I knew that Santa saw my letters each year, and even had visions of him snuggled in his lazy boy at the North Pole reading my sister’s and my toy pleas by the fire.  

All the Christmas movies, picture books, parent warnings, and playground discussions reinforced my Santa script.  My subconscious mind interpreted all of that data, so Santa became my reality.  


Harnessing a Belief in Santa to Create the Reality you Want

Do I have a point, here?  Perhaps.  After reading this, my goal is for you to build a “Santa” script or framework in your own mind.  My eldest, B, has taken over as the Santa framework-builder in our house.  He’s made Santa videos for our youngest two, set up their accounts for personalized letters and assured autographed Santa Clause photos arrive in the mail.  He even picked out everyone’s advent calendars (all chocolate, of course).

The most important part of Santa’s story is what happens after Santa’s true identity is revealed.  It’s important to talk to your children.  Show them how powerful their minds really are.  



Virtual and augmented reality are common discussion topics at our house because B is a gamer.  But, fitting subjective reality into the conversation keeps things REALLY interesting.  What might your mind notice if aliens were real, or if you were on your way to becoming a famous author?  My son imagines what would lead him to 50K followers on youtube.  If he already had 50K followers, what would his mind scripts be telling him?  How would his reality change if he had already reached his goal?  What opportunities will he notice once he’s in that frame of mind?

If your reality is not what you want it to be, build a “Santa” framework.  Not to sound too “life-coachy” here, but your mind WANTS to make your thoughts a reality.  Feed it with the basic framework of the dreams you want to come true.  In our house, Santa is real is the password to our best life.  

What stories do you tell your children that can grow their imagination and shape their reality?

Published by Family ADDventures

Nicole Santiago is a learning specialist, student advocate, and founder of Family ADDventures. As a specialist, she assesses and teaches clients (adults and adolescents) to manage and grow their executive functioning skills which include emotional regulation, task initiation, and time management. As an advocate (IEP coach), she is a member of COPAA and ensures inclusive (special) education students receive the most appropriate educational services possible. She often collaborates with OT's, SLP's and neuropsychologists all in the name of student improvement and success. Her practice is located in San Antonio, TX, and everywhere (virtually). The author grew up an army brat and spends time with her three ND children and husband in Puerto Rico whenever possible. She writes about mental health, parenting, education, and entrepreneurship on her blog:

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