Don’t Make Santa the “Fall Guy”

by Samantha on December 19, 2014

Honesty is the Best Policy During the Holiday Season

coal from santa

“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!”

So are our children warned in one of the season’s most popular tunes, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Heaven forbid one ends up on “The Naughty List.”

For the uninitiated, this is the list that is kept by The Great One (no, not that one) who has the final say in what children receive – or don’t – on the morning of December 25th.

You see, the threat of being relegated to “The Naughty List” is what may be one of the only things that keep kids on the straight and narrow in those weeks and months leading up to Christmas Day.

Santa and his all-knowing, all-powerful ability to “see” what’s going on and to be the sole arbiter of decisions regarding behaviour throughout the year provides some semblance of order and obedience by anxious children, at least for a month or two (or three) leading up to the big day.

Oh, yes – there is the “Elf on the Shelf” who, in some homes, is also keeping an eye out for their boss, but these imps’ abilities to actually have decision-making capacities is questionable, at best. They may indeed report back to Santa but it is the big man in the red suit who determines what child is getting the goods and what child will be disappointed to say the least to receive that proverbial bag of coal on Christmas morning.

By many accounts, the threat seems to work, but one has to ask: is it really necessary?

Sure – Santa may determine that a child’s behaviour is not up to snuff and is therefore a reason to deny said child of gifts on Christmas Day. But why does Santa have to be the judge, jury and (figurative) executioner on December 25th? Whatever happened to parental responsibility and the ability to look one’s child in the eye in an attempt to deliver the verdict? If a child was indeed “naughty,” and deserves no more than a lump of coal in her stocking, what’s the problem with telling her so? Why offload the delivery of the bad news to the man in the red suit?

For the weeks and months leading up to Christmas Day, children around the world are on their best behaviour, in large part because of the constant reminder that the all-knowing, all-seeing Big Guy from Up North is watching their every move in an effort to determine whether all of their Christmas morning dreams will come true…or not.

All things considered, the lead-up to Christmas gives parents a break from always being the “heavy.” For a short while during the year, we get to delegate this parental responsibility to someone who appears to have the power to do what so many of us cannot: get their child to behave.

Perhaps it’s our collective feelings of guilt about having to be the disciplinarian for most of the year that relegates many of us during the holiday season to giddily remind our kids that “Santa’s watching.” We are, if only for a fleetingly short period of time, able to offload any responsibility for bad behaviour to an omnipresent figure who will mercifully deliver – or mercilessly not deliver – the goods come Christmas morning. After all: Santa sees all, knows all, and determines who gets what, so Moms and Dads are, for once, off the hook.

It’s easy to get Santa to do our “dirty work” for us for us once a year and relinquish us from any responsibility we may have otherwise had regarding being “The Heavy.” Financial considerations aside, it’s much more difficult to look your child square in the eyes and tell them that they didn’t receive the requested gift(s) because their bad behaviour didn’t warrant positive reinforcement.

Indeed, Christmas may present a welcome though fleeting relief for a time every holiday season, releasing us from the more unpleasant responsibilities of parenting: saying “no,” or disappointing our child. Though it’s easy enough to coast along, leaving Santa to be the one deciding our child’s toy fate, perhaps we should reconsider this tact and do the “dirty work” ourselves.

After all, it’s our responsibility to teach our children well, even when the lesson being taught is not one that the child particularly wants to learn. As difficult as it may be, this holiday season may present an opportunity to start a discussion with your child about their behaviour, good or bad, Santa Claus notwithstanding.

A child who has been deemed “naughty” should very well be told so by their parents, and no one else. Santa may be an easy messenger through his actions (or lack thereof) but the real lessons that will be learned and remembered by children are the ones that come from their mothers and fathers. As difficult as it may seem, the naughty behaviour that warrants discussion should not be made the responsibility of the big guy in the red suit. In other words, parents should take a page from their own well-worn playbook and follow one of the most important rules of all: honesty is the best policy.

Should Santa have all of the responsibility as to whether a child receives the gifts they ask for or not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

To read this article on Huffington Post, CLICK HERE.

VIDEO: Santa Claus is Coming to Town

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How do you feel about being asked for money at the checkout counter?

checkout counter

Forgive the fact that this post doesn’t have much to do with Parenting and Kids as per usual, but I really need to get this off my chest. Thanks.

Checkout Charity

As I unwittingly approach the cash register, items in hand, little do I know what’s about to occur. You see, what I thought was an innocent trip to the store to purchase milk/wine/clothes/[insert item here] has become a battle of wills and a test of my ability to overcome what we all secretly fear: Public shame.

Yes – what I thought was a mundane daily errand has become a thing. You know – something that will evoke a strong emotion, and a subject that you will recount sheepishly to your family and friends, after the fact.

“That’ll be $24.72, please. And would you like to donate $2 to the ABC charity?”

We all know the score.

As consumers, we’re increasingly being tested and potentially shamed at the checkout counter.

This relatively new corporate method of money collecting is what I think is an insidious and downright unfair method of achieving a company goal.

Yes – charities need money, but do they need to shame unsuspecting consumers in the process?

There’s little warning when and where this sneaky yet popular type of occurrence will happen. You may think that you’re getting a carton of milk and some bread at the supermarket, yet said supermarket thinks otherwise.

You’re a target and a potential donator of funds to what is oftentimes a very unclear, murky “charity” that you’ve been asked to support.

The common thread regarding these types of incidences is that little if no information is given by the requestor (in most cases, a cashier), yet the requestee (you or I) is expected to hand over some money.

How is this right or fair?

I don’t think that it is.

Here is what I think.

Using a “gotcha” technique that is based on surprise, intimidation and, let’s face it, humiliation, is not one that sits well with me. And I don’t think that I’m the only one who feels this way.

Pressuring consumers to give money to charities about which they’ve been provided NO information is just wrong.

Are the companies getting a tax break on my after tax dollars that I may be donating? I don’t know.

How is my money going to be allocated? What percentage of my $1 or $2 is going to administration and what percentage is going to everything else?

This information is never given, yet I’m supposed to give them money.

I don’t think so.

Until both the charity and the business that is requesting money on behalf of said charity is completely transparent about how this money is being spent, I’m not about to hand over funds. Further, using the embarrassment factor, that is, hoping I’ll say “yes” just so that I don’t seem like a cheapskate in front of the people who are standing in line behind me, is sneaky, underhanded and downright wrong.

Do I want to donate $2 to ABC Charity? Perhaps. But I’ll do the research and determine how, when if and how much I will provide to said charity on my own time.

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This was the crux of a “rant” that I did for CBC The 180 about an increasingly popular  tactic of consumers being asked to donate to charity while paying for items at the checkout line. Here’s a link to the rant:

Rant Against “Checkout Charity”

Having written about this topic before and discussing my extreme distaste for it, CBC wanted to know if I still felt this way and, more importantly, if my opinion on the topic was representative of so many others who are unsuspectingly “hijacked at the checkout.”

The short answer to both questions is “yes.”

“Checkout charity” has become even more prevalent than it was even a few years ago, and my disdain for the tactic is, apparently, not unusual. I’ve written extensively about having to deal with a “Meltdown in Aisle 5” – the challenges of shopping with young kids in tow; imagine now trying to add yet another variable to the mix? Screaming kid(s), a shopping cart full of items and an opportunity for yet further humiliation by being asked for money for charity and having to either

a) say yes, just to save face and salvage what little dignity you have left, or

b) say “no” and prove to all those in line behind you that yes, indeed – you are a horrible person (screaming child notwithstanding).

As part of a segment on the subject including my rant (above) a poll done by the CBC 180 on this very topic revealed that over 82 percent of those polled agreed that this type of charity collection felt like “an ambush for alms.” In other words, most people don’t like it. To be more specific, people seem to particularly despise being “ambushed” when all they really wanted was to buy an item or two and head out on their way.

It doesn’t seem to matter what type of items are being purchased, either. They could range from milk and eggs to wine, spirits, hardware or clothing. Anything and everything is a seeming opportunity for a checkout request for donations, much to the chagrin and often, the embarrassment, of those being asked.

To say “no” could render one earmarked as a “cheapskate,” a “Scrooge” or perhaps just an unfeeling, insensitive sod in front of the checkout line of people who are in full earshot of the request. For those who are more prone to public embarrassment and who dread the prospect of being publicly shamed, it may seem to be the lesser of two evils to begrudgingly submit the few bucks just to save face. Say “yes” and you’re absolved of any perception of cheapness. Say “no” and you’re a mean-spirited, cheap and unkind person who doesn’t care about others. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

I welcomed the opportunity to once again state my opinion and to speak for all those (of whom there are many) who agree that being ambushed for money when all you were looking for was a carton of milk (or otherwise) is just plain uncool.

Following the CBC “rant,” they did a follow up show where my (and many others’) dislike for this particular tactic was counter-balanced by feedback from charities and those who support this type of thing. You can read the full show notes here, as well as listen to the segment that is linked on the page (click on the “Listen” button under the image):

The Case For and Against Checkout Charity – CBC The 180

Check out the Twitter commentary and comments included in the post. Seems like I’m not the only one who is irritated by this method of money collection. Here are some examples:

The whole thing seemed to hit a collective nerve. Who knew? Apparently so many more of us are completely unimpressed by this new method of money collection. Ellen Roseman, resident Consumer Advocate for the Toronto Star called, following the CBC interviews, and wanted to discuss this topic as well. I did the interview, which can be read here:

 

Some items related to “checkout charity” that are questionable:
  • Donations are not tracked or acknowledged and donators are not given a tax receipt, even though the organization will receive a charitable break on their own taxes, as well as being seen as a “good corporate citizen
  • Why aren’t donations tracked the same way businesses easily track loyalty points – through a dedicated card or similar system? This way, the donation can be recognized and filed as part of the donator’s tax return
  • The request for donations is to be given from our after tax dollars – this means that we’re being taxed on our net income, getting no recognition or tax break for it, but the organization that is asking is getting one
  • Little or no information is given when the request for money is made. How is a person supposed to make a conscientious decision about donating when they don’t have all the facts? These include:
    • Details about the charity – what they stand for
    • How funds in the charity are allocated – percentages for administration, expenses, etc.
    • How much has the business asking for the money donated to said charity?

As you can see, there are so many questions surrounding this topic, yet so little answers. The topic is a hot one; apparently there are still more of us who are irritated by this increasingly popular practice.

Reuters came calling as a result of the radio and newspaper articles and I stood firm on my position. This practice is apparently ramping up around the holiday season, all across North America (Canada and the U.S. are equally affected). Here’s the full article/interview:

Checkout Charity: Get Ready For the Cash Register Ambush

So, it’s a thing now. Whether we like it or not, it appears that “checkout charity” is here to stay. Yet so many of us are increasingly uncomfortable with this method of collecting money, and still it continues. The question is, “why?” And what can we, as consumers, do to stop this type of underhanded tactic?

Any suggestions? I welcome your commentary and feedback. Please leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.   

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VIDEO: Coping Tips For New Moms

by Samantha on November 8, 2014

Simple advice on new baby care


baby feet

Having a new baby can be a shock. From diapers to spit-up, not to mention the lack of sleep, there are so many things that to consider.

The good news is that there are some simple things that can be done to make the transition to parenting easier.

I wrote about some of these tips here:

New Baby Care – Top 10 Helpful Tips For New Moms

You can also view the Downright Domestic segment on this topic where I provide advice here:

VIDEO: New Mom Tips

Do you have some advice about how to make the transition to parenting easier? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Sick Kids? Keep ‘Em Entertained With Netflix

by Samantha on November 3, 2014

Netflix Picks For The Kids to Watch When They're Home Sick

DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own.

The season was barely underway before the inevitable occurred: my kids got sick.

Yes, what is a rite of passage – though an annual one – happened a few weeks back when I detected a slightly higher than normal temperature on one of my boys.

“No big,” I thought; nothing that a little Tylenol and Advil (for kids, of course) couldn’t solve.

Right?

Wrong.

Without warning, not one but two of my kids – the twins – were quickly afflicted with the seasonal flu. With rocketing mercury and all the other fun stuff that goes with this illness (I don’t think I need to go into detail here), the deal was done: they had to stay home from school.

Knowing that this would mean a few days of wearing different hats including but not limited to mom, nurse, cleaner-of-gross-stuff, wiper of noses, administrator of medicine, cook and so much more, I resigned myself to the inevitable.

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the first things that came to mind was the latest kiddie selections on Netflix because, after all, we know that flu season means a whole lot of lying around and watching TV. My boys love Netflix and were more than thrilled when I suggested that they park themselves on the couch for hours of uninterrupted movie-watching. After all, they were sick, so the rules about how much TV they should reasonably watch in a day went out the window.

First up? A stand-by classic in our household for all the kids – Shrek continues to rule the kingdom. The great thing about this movie is that it appeals to younger and older kids alike. Oh – and adults ;)

Shrek

Next, another great pick that children of all ages will enjoy – Despicable Me. Funny, engaging, and enough laughs for the parents (like Shrek) to keep the family entertained:

Despicable-Me

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was also on the agenda and is a great pick for kids of all ages:

Cloudy with a Chance - 70113007_4231527

For younger kids in particular, there are a number of great selections on Netflix as well. My boys recently discovered Noddy in Toyland, which kept them engaged and quiet while they battled the flu.

Noddy in Toyland -80000008_9702186

Here are some other picks you may want to consider when the kids are home-bound because of seasonal illnesses and you’re going out of your mind trying to keep them entertained:

For the little ones:

Horrid Henry - 70301529_9682901

VeggieTales 80011539_11370876

For the bigger kids:

70143843_4009819Diary of a Wimpy Kid

What are your favourite movies and TV shows to watch with the kids when they’re sick? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

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Recent News Events Can Scare Children - Here's How Parents Can Help

child watching tv

Ebola. Terrorism. War.

Shootings. Poverty. The economy. Death.

All scary topics and all very real. These subjects are broached regularly in the media and, if you’re a parent of a young child, you’re likely concerned about the effect that such information is having on your little one.

With recent world events escalating in tandem with the ubiquitous 24/7 news cycle, it’s almost impossible for a parent to completely limit the access to information that their children may have. While it is possible to keep a lid on the negative and scarier news items while your child is within your care, our kids do venture out into the world without us – at school, at a friend’s house and elsewhere – and it is in these places that we don’t have much control. Add to this fact the reality that kids talk amongst themselves and it’s likely that your child will have heard something about the latest headline, whether it’s good or bad.

In many instances, kids react to what’s in front of them. What we as parents need to do is to provide context, information and in all cases, reassurances and support to allay any fears that our children may have.

Following are 5 tips for parents about how to calm their child’s fears during these difficult times.

 1) Listen – Listen to your child’s fears. What are they most concerned about? Oftentimes, there are one or two things that are really scaring them. Are their concerns based in reality? What have they heard, where did they hear it and what do they think is going to happen as a result? When you have a clear understanding of exactly what is bothering your child, you’ll be better prepared to provide them with the information, comfort and support that they need.

 2) Limit Exposure – As much as is possible, limit your child’s exposure to negative and scary news stories. Granted, information is everywhere, but while your child is in your care, turn off the radio, mute the TV and monitor internet use to assure that what is being viewed is appropriate and at the least, neutral. While we can’t completely control what our children see or hear, we can make a difference in the amount and type of information that they receive while they’re with us.

 3) Share Age-Appropriate Information – Kids have a limited understanding of many of the underlying reasons and causes behind the headlines. The geopolitical situation that has fuelled recent wars, the spread of infections diseases; there is much more context and information that underlies the realities of what is being conveyed in the headlines. Children of certain ages, particularly the younger ones, should be provided with as much detail as is appropriate, and that they can handle. In many cases, this may mean giving them basic facts of the situation at hand, but not getting into the specific, granular details, much of which may be beyond their scope of understanding. As the parent, you will know what your child can and can’t handle. Proceed accordingly when providing them with information regarding world events.

 4) Be Honest – If you don’t know, you don’t know. It’s okay to tell your child that you don’t have all the answers. Children need to learn that parents are just people and as such, we don’t know everything that there is to know. What is important is letting your child know that you’ll share whatever information that you receive (age-appropriate, of course) when received, and that you’re there to answer any questions. As always, honesty is the best policy.

 5) Provide Comfort – A warm hug and some kind words can go a long way, especially coming from Mom or Dad. At the end of the day, kids are looking to their parents for reassurance and comfort that everything is going to work out fine – or as fine as things can be, given the circumstances. Be available to answer questions but also be available to give your child whatever reassurances that they may need. Sometimes they may be words; other times, a big hug and some prolonged cuddling can assuage the fears of the most anxious child.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

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Trick-Or-Treating is for Kids. Period.

October 25, 2014

Save the Halloween Treats For the Little Ones It happens every year. They come to your door, taller than you, baritone voices and facial hair abound. The females? Let’s just say that their costumes are often not PG-rated, to say the least. Yet they’re heralding the Halloween battle-cry: “Trick or Treat!!” What do you do? […]

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CBC Radio Interviews – Lice, Kids and School

October 11, 2014

Your kid comes home with lice. Who’s responsible? We as parents wait with bated breath for the dreaded letter. It usually starts out something like this: “A case of pediculosis has been identified in your child’s class…” yada, yada, yada. You get the point. Someone in your kid’s class has LICE! You are freaking out, […]

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Family Halloween-Themed Viewing Ideas From Netflix

October 10, 2014

Halloween. The one day of the year where kids and parents alike can live out their inner fantasy of being a superhero, ghoul or rock star. It’s also an opportunity to enjoy some of the creepy day’s more appropriate entertainment fare. This year, Halloween falls on a Friday, allowing for a full weekend of dress-up, […]

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Messed-Up Kids’ Songs

September 20, 2014

A peek behind the curtain of classic children’s songs shows a surprisingly darker side One of my sons’ favourite songs is “You Are My Sunshine.” It’s a classic – a perennial favourite amongst parents everywhere. Perhaps it’s the metaphorical comparison between lightness and the object of the singer’s affection (You are my sunshine). Perhaps it’s […]

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Learning With Netflix

September 15, 2014

Family entertainment can be used as a learning tool DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own.  The kids are back to school and hopefully, they’ve have settled into a […]

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