It’s that time of year when parents start reminding their kids that Santa is watching, the Elf on the Shelf returns to keep track of their good and bad behaviors, and their status on the Naughty or Nice lists is always on the brain. One parent is considering taking things further than simple warnings and reminders, asking Reddit if he’s crossing a line by considering canceling the holiday altogether for his misbehaving daughter.
Sharing his woes on the platform’s “r/Parenting” forum, the dad explains, “I’ve always gone extra like Buddy the elf for my daughter, I get her everything for Xmas, and Santa is always a huge surprise. We make cookies and fudge and build gingerbread houses, it’s our tradition every year.” He continues, “But this year, she’s developed a bad attitude and complete disrespect. Arguing over simple things like brushing teeth or cleaning her room, all out screaming.”
“My wife and I are at our wits’ end,” he writes, “We’ve taken away TV and tablet privileges, taken away toys and games. It has no effect. We are starting the process of counseling with a psychiatrist and are considering all options.”
“The thing is, that I have already done all my Xmas shopping and so has Santa,” he explains, asking, “Would it be too devastating to ask Santa not to come because of her behavior? Maybe save all the gifts and she can have them later on when gets control of her anger and disrespectful attitude?”
While Reddit empathizes with this dad’s frustration with his daughter, users urged him to find other ways to get through to her, warning him that taking away Christmas may make the situation far worse, both in the present and future.
“Keep your family traditions. Give her the presents. Give them because you want to give them, not for any other reason,” one user wrote. “Taking away things hasn’t improved the situation yet, doing so in Christmas won’t be any more successful, only resentful. 9-year-old girls can be terrible, especially to one another. There may be more going on that’s coming out at home.”
Another Redditor agreed, pointing out a common hurdle with kids her age: “I personally think it’s too far. I think you are making the right approach with getting help to talk her through it. I also want to toss this out there. I was 9 when I got my first period. Puberty hit me like an emotional freight and if my parents wanted to yell? Cool me too. I can yell louder until it hit the point I didn’t even know what started it and we were all mad and crying.”
They continued, “I wish when I had yelled they had not. I wish they had tried to defuse the situation and find the root instead of getting lost in the power struggle of they ask me to do xyz and I said no. Punishment never worked on me. I’m not sure it would have helped but looking back it’s how I feel. Somewhere she’s got a need that isn’t being met. One of the hardest parenting struggles is finding it.”
One user commented, “This type of punishment will only hurt your bond with your child, especially taking away the activities that you usually do together, or having her open a present only to give it away. She is clearly struggling and needs help. Making her feel bad doesn’t help her.”
They praised the dad for what he is doing right, writing, “You’re taking a great step talking with a therapist.” They also added resource suggestions for OP: “Some books that might be helpful to you are The Whole Brain Child and Raising Human Beings. This is also a good resource: https://thinkkids.org/. You don’t need to punish your kid to have boundaries. Not punishing them doesn’t make you soft. It sounds like she’s just as miserable with the situation as you are.”
Another user had a similar suggestion involving resources to look into, writing, “I highly recommend checking out @biglittlefeelings on Instagram. Your child is still learning to process their world and the interactions that occur daily. Such dire consequences won’t even equate to the behaviors you’re attempting to discipline.”
One Redditor’s response was very thoughtful — they wrote to the dad, “Maybe this is a good opportunity to reconnect with her… once I read a quote that I really feel is applicable w kids — ‘If trying harder doesn’t work, try softer.’ Give a little compassion and be curious about what’s going on — is she adjusting to anything new? So many body changes occur around 9 too. Is there something you can do together that will help you get closer (something she enjoys) or can you engage w her in a way that she feels is more autonomous? Is she screaming bc she doesn’t feel heard — in that case, can you show her validation first and foremost acknowledging that it is kinda annoying to do things we don’t want to do and you understand it can be frustrating.”
They continued, “When she does clean, take the time to ask her how it feels to be in a clean space and relax together, light a candle. After brushing teeth, breathing out that fresh air, maybe even in a mirror and drawing a pic. Is she screaming bc she’s struggling to regulate her emotions? Offer some coping cards where you can find some tools to use that fit w what helps her (quiet space w a fidget toy, chewing on an ice cube, stretching, etc).”
The kind user concluded, “I hope you guys have a good holiday — sounds like you could use that bonding time to enjoy one another. I totally get the instinct to punish, but I feel it never works how I have intended and just gives my kids anxiety. Canceling Christmas will only grow the frustration she’s already feeling and cause resentment. She will look back when older and just remember ‘I was so bad, they did x one year’ — it doesn’t send a good message.”
With therapy and Reddit’s helpful advice, we hope this dad can embrace the spirit of the season — both for the holidays and for this new chapter in his daughter’s life.
Before you go, check out some of Reddit’s most jaw-dropping Thanksgiving stories.