The "Santa Threat" 

As the current economic recovery hasn't yet "trickled down" to my middle-class saving-account, Christmas, once again, will be a little lean. It may be the perfect Christmas to teach the Spawn a valuable lesson in life, though. Although I recall my own father threatening my brother and me with the "Santa threat" of him bringing nothing but coal for Christmas for a period of years in my youth, I don't ever recall him carrying through with it.

The other day, I pulled that parenting trick out of my past and used it with a modern twist. The spawn were a little too rambunctious in the back seat and were really getting on my nerves. I told them to "shut up" but they weren't heeding my warnings. So I told them I was going to call Santa and tell them to put them on the naughty list ... with the understanding that any kid on the naughty list wouldn't get any presents under the Christmas tree.

They called my bluff by saying, "Yeah, right, dad," and kept on with their aggravating behavior. So I pulled out the cell phone, and made the call to Santa.

"Hi, may I speak to Santa please," I said. This caught their attention.

"Hi, Santa. Yes, this is Bingo Barnes, father of the Spawn. Oh, you know who I am? Of course you do, you're Santa. By the way, thanks for that Hot Wheels set when I was 6. Anyway, the reason I called was because I want to ask that you put the Spawn on the naughty list. Oh, one's already there? Well, can you keep him there and put the other one on, too? That'd be great. I don't think they deserve any presents from you this year because they've been naughty and won't listen to their dad. Thanks a lot. Hopefully, we'll see you next year. If they're good."

The older one had a cautious grin but the younger Spawn wasn't sure what to make of the phone call and actually behaved for the rest of the way home. A small success.

The more I think about it, the more I need to carry through with the lesson. Life is tough and the consequences of bad behavior need to be carried out. Call it "tough love" or whatever, but I think I'll try to convince the Mother Spawn to allow me to put pieces of coal and a few rocks in their stockings for Christmas morn. Yeah, it would be a bad Christmas day filled with angry and sad kids, but the life lesson would have a profound impact for the rest of their lives. If you're bad, you won't get any presents. They could tell their own kids the story. "The Christmas that never came because we were naughty," they'd call it.

I figure it would have one of two results. Either they'd listen to their parents a little more and they would behave, or they would become juvenile delinquents hating their parents for the rest of their lives. It's a parenting gamble, with big risks, but the results could be effective.

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