The first time I made a Santa Claus threat, it sure was effective.

My son was refusing to go to bed. He lay on the floor and cried and kicked his legs. I did my usual count to three and he still hadn’t budged. Then I told him calmly that I was going to call Santa Claus and tell him he was not being a good boy and he won’t be needing any of those presents we talked about this year.

In an instant my son was up off the floor, running towards me saying “please mummy, don’t call Santa, I’m a good boy”.

I told him, I would wait to make the call until after he had his sleep. Soon after, my cheeky toddler was tucked up in bed sound asleep. No fake call needed.

Kids love Santa Claus
Santa Claus threats only work when the kids believe in Santa. Photo: BigStock

I asked my friends and family about the Santa threat and found loads of mums who delighted in Christmas time because it gave them a great way to keep the kids in line.

But what happens when it’s not Christmas? You can’t use the Santa threat in August.

A girlfriend told me as soon as Christmas stopped she would start talking about the Easter Bunny. Then maybe the Tooth Fairy. Imaginary figures kept her kids’ behaviour in check all year round.

My kids were the type of kids that quickly busted the Santa / Tooth Fairy / Easter bunny myth. So the Santa threat didn’t last long enough in our house. If I use it, the kids look at me and say: “Mum, seriously, we know you are Santa, and YOU wouldn’t do that.”

When I was a kid, Mum and Dad would threaten to make us get out of the car and walk home if we were fighting in the back seat. Mum tells me that it never happened. I do remember the car stopping and doors being opened but that is as far as it went.

When my son was really little, I would threaten to leave the park if he was misbehaving. I did it once and then he knew that I mean business. One friend told me that she threatened to drop her boy off at the jail gates on the way home if he didn’t behave. But one day he called her bluff. He said: “Go on then, I’ll get out thanks”. She couldn’t go through with it. There was no way she was really leaving her child out the front of a jail.


Alison Godfrey has worked as a journalist and editor for more than 20 years. She loves coffee, wine, skiing and spending time with her husband, two children and their dog. But she's still not sure about the cat. He's pretty cranky.

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