Are you a Santa Claus lover? What I mean is, do you love like Santa Claus. Santa is a jolly, lovable role model, don’t you think? He gives toys to kids and spreads holiday cheer. But have you ever thought about what this teaches little ones about love? Think about this. He watches your every move. He judges you. Then if you meet his expectations, he rewards you with toys.
Looking at it this way, it sounds a little creepy, doesn’t it? But if you think about it, that’s how a lot of adults love! And no wonder. They learned it from a beloved hero. Let’s break this down.
He Sees You When You’re Sleeping. He Knows When You’re Awake
Santa is a spy. This is not cool. Whether you are rearing children or are in a romantic relationship, you don’t demonstrate love by spying. There has got to be trust. People need freedom to develop, grow, work, and have fun. They need to have room to make their own decisions without having to worry about being watched. Sometimes they will do things others approve of and sometimes they won’t. Spying won’t change someone’s nature or heart. It will just make them more furtive in their activities.
So trust. Love with an open heart. Let your children have age appropriate freedom. Let your partner be who he or she is. If your child makes poor choices, direct him. When your partner makes choices you don’t agree with, see if you can come to an agreement on what works for both of you. If not, perhaps it’s not the best match. Accountability is good. Spying is not.
He Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good
Love isn’t judgmental. It’s accepting. Everybody lives in shades of grey. We are all works in progress. If we got judged for everything that we did that wasn’t perfect, we’d all fail. No one can live up to that black and white standard.
This type of guideline teaches kids and adults that their value is up to someone else. If someone else approves, they are okay. This is the basis of low self-esteem. If little ones are to know their value, they need to see a separation between who they are and what they do. When you love someone regardless of whether they are good or bad, they will know they are good.
This doesn’t mean you reward ineffective behavior. It just means you don’t withhold love or judge the person when they are wrong or ineffective.
Some examples of pairing love with reward or punishment:
- withholding sex when you don’t agree with your partner
- agreeing to do something when things are going well, then changing your mind if the mood shifts
- withholding something that you would do if you were treated better.
- giving something you aren’t inclined to give otherwise because your loved one was nice or loving to you
Some examples of rewarding ineffective behavior:
- challenging the principal for suspending your child after being in a fight that he started
- punishing your child for something then feeling guilty about it so you follow that with a reward
- not calling your partner on ineffective behavior that bothers you in order to keep the peace
Another thing to remember is that there are lots of standards for what is good and acceptable. Who says that your way is the way? Accepting people as they are creates more space for you to accept the things about yourself that others find questionable. So, acceptance is a two way street.
Give Stuff in Place of Love
Using rewards as a sign of love can create materialistic children and parters. It can make you resentful if you don’t have something to give, don’t want to give, or didn’t receive. It can also be a hollow substitute for true feeling. If you give only when you want to give, and love always, the love and giving will always remain separate.
Our pop culture Santa Claus was created by advertisers to sell stuff. If you’re going to be a Santa Claus lover, model yourself after the original Santa, St. Nicholas. St Nicholas was a rich man who had a tender heart for other people. One of his most famous exploits, and the one for which Santa gets the credit, was when he threw a bag of gold into a poor family’s house. He did this because the family did not have money to eat. Nor did they have money to pay the girl’s dowry so she could marry. This gift allowed the girl to escape prostitution and have a family. Nicholas helped many people – often anonymously – and earned a reputation for generosity.
To recap, here is how to love like Nicholas:
- it’s okay to check up on kids and parters (and perhaps even wise), but don’t spy
- accept others for who they are; don’t judge
- separate love and approval from deeds
- give things only when and what you want to
- be generous with your love
- expect nothing and accept love in the way that it is offered