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Dear Dr Day Care,

I am the mother of a kindergarten child. She plays with another child in our neighborhood and they attend kindergarten together. They have become great friends.  The children play well together and playtime is equally divided between the two families.
Yesterday my daughter came home and said to me that her friend's mom told her that she had to be a good girl, for Santa Claus. My daughter then told me if she is “bad” Santa skip would our house! My husband and I do not use Santa or any other scare tactics to discipline our child. We deal with her behavior at the time she misbehaves. Do you believe that Santa Claus should be used as a discipline technique?

Signed, Santa Scare

Dear Santa Scare,

I do not believe Santa Claus or any other fictitious characters should be used as a discipline method for children. I suggest that parents, grandparents, teachers, caregivers, etc. deal with the child's behavior on an individual basis without the use of fear as a disciplinary technique. Best practice for discipline is for the consequences fit the inappropriate behavior in a reasonable time frame.

Example of disciplining a 5 year-old two different ways:

  1. "If you do not take out the trash, Santa will not bring you the bike you want for Christmas."
  2. “Your responsibility in this family is to take the trash out by 5 pm. You must do your chore or you will have to go to bed ½ an hour early with no electronics."

The Santa discipline method creates anxiety in a child with no limits to follow through for getting the family chore accomplished. And most likely, Santa will come to the home and leave toys for Christmas morning. So the Santa discipline concept is therefore less effective and also, there is no immediate consequence to the child not taking out the trash. Clearly stating the chore, and the consequences for incompletion, gives the child a sense of responsibility and teaches follow-through.

My suggestions is to explain to your daughter that Santa comes to her home, no matter how she behaves. Explain to her that all families are different and may have different rules.  For example, her friend's parents have rules in their home about Santa’s arrival and the rules in her home are not the same. This will give her a sense of security and eliminates fear.




“Dr. Day Care” is Mary Ann Shallcross Smith, Ed.D., CEO/President of Child Care Consultants & Facilities Management, Dr. Day Care Learning Center, Kids Klub, and Therapeutic Child Care Services.  We educate infant, toddler, preschool, kindergarten, and school-age/camp children.

“Dr. Day Care” can be reached anytime by calling 401-723-22 ext. 222 or by e-mail at: For additional Parent Resources, such as informational videos, visit our website at:   A new series on Potty Training for parents is located at:


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