Let’s face it, four and five-year-olds can be handfuls. Public tantrums, sibling rows, acts of willful disobedience… we’ve endured some spectacular displays of bad behavior.

But we’ve discovered one easy and effective discipline trick:

The Santa Threat.

You know: When the kid is acting up, and the parent says:  “I may have to tell Santa about this, and Santa may not want to bring you any Christmas presents…” I’ve written about this technique before, in Sunday Night Temper Tantrum.

You’d think that this only works right before Christmas. But we’re finding that when used judiciously, The Santa Threat can work all year long. The best is when I hold up my phone and say: “I think I’m going to have to videotape this behavior for Santa…” Wow, that gets immediate results.

A few months ago, I was contacted by the owner of a new company whose business model is based upon The Santa Threat, called Twelve Letters From Santa. Their motto: “Let Santa Help Keep Your Kids on the Nice List Year-Round”. This is a service that will design, print, and mail an actual fancy letter “postmarked” from the North Pole, from Santa’s desk, to your child. Parents have the option to custom-draft some text, along the lines of It was so nice of you to lend your new Crayola markers to your sister, Santa loves to see sharing! But let’s remember that dumping water over her head isn’t a very nice thing to do… The company adds their professional touch (heavy card stock paper, nice big font) as well as some suggested activities (last month was Make Your Own Holiday).

The owner invited me to trial the service for free, so of course, I said yes. We’ve received a few letters from Santa, and maybe not surprisingly, Babygirl is the more impressed child. She has been very happy to receive her letter, tear it open, and do the activity.

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The pros and cons, risks and benefits of encouraging belief in an invented idol can be debated elsewhere. Personally, as long as The Santa Threat is an easy and effective discipline tool, I say, keep the letters coming!