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I Cancelled Santa at Christmas

Santa List

At first, I threatened to cancel the whole of Christmas and postpone it for a while, but I didn’t think our lovely KellyBronze Turkey would stand to wait for another few days, so we went ahead and had our meal.  We did NOT have any presents for the kids to go down to on Christmas morning.

I have to admit to feeling a bit sorry for myself on Christmas Eve when there was no sign of any excitement from the kids.  As old as they are getting, they still usually track Santa through Norad, and get all excited when he gets to the UK.

This year, nothing.

Two watched a bit of TV, were really quiet and withdrawn, and went off to bed with the secret hope that perhaps mum is wrong and Santa would come in the morning.

He didn’t.

Littlest one almost swallowed these words.

“Not giving kids Christmas presents is child abuse.”

I nearly gave in, but I knew I couldn’t.

I did let them have 1 present on Christmas day after their meal.


My kids behaviour has deteriorated to the point that I was not prepared to have them get anything without earning it first.  Yes, there are special needs in the family and yes, it is tough to live with someone who has his level of brain damage and immaturity, but they do have to live in society.  Kicking and punching me or my mum just doesn’t make me feel like being Santa.

The man went out on the Thursday night before Xmas and things escalated from the moment he left.  I announced that Christmas was cancelled in frustration and from then on I knew I would have to carry it through.  If I hadn’t gone through with it, the next time I said there was to be a sanction, they’d laugh in my face.


We’re 3 days past Christmas now.

Two children have now had their big presents and one child has only had two cheapie presents as he hasn’t earned anything of value yet.  Most of his are still in a sack in the cupboard and I doubt he will ever make his big present this year.  It may never go his way.  He has targets to meet to get it and I am being really strict with it.   I value my limbs not being attacked, and the price of his Christmas presents is directly linked to how unharmed my body is.

He has to make a week without either kicking and punching me or my mum – or even trying to.   After yesterday, we’re back to Day 1 today.   He goes to respite tomorrow over New Year and Day 2 will start on the day he gets home.

For the other two kids, it’s been quite good.  Instead of an hour of excited madness and then stuffing their faces and not knowing what to play with first, there has been a steady small stream of excitement each day as they learn they’ve behaved enough to get another present from me.   They’ve had days of something to look forward to, instead of one overwhelming day.


How I’ll play it next year, I’m not sure.  If we are at the same point, the same thing will happen.   Eldest had his big present for two days and it was confiscated when he threw a strop for nothing more than being asked to do something for me.  I used to just put all presents out on the chairs, with no differential between Santa and parents.  This year has seen a massive shift in how it’s done.

Their cousin who is just 6 was absolutely horrified at Santa not stopping by our house.  Eldest sat at his window all night on Xmas Eve to see if he could see Santa dropping off presents to the other kids in our street.  He’s convinced that he saw him fly by as he saw an orange light in the sky.

He fell asleep with his head on the window sill.

It’s been a more pleasant few days than usual, despite yesterdays aggression from middler, and we’re all looking forward to a break for him in respite and us at home.

Bring on Hogmanay.


62 thoughts on “I Cancelled Santa at Christmas

  1. To be honest I don’t know what to say, but I did not want to read and run. Bloody good on you for sticking to what you said. I also know how hard it is to feel your doing wrong …. its not easy being mum and even worse when you feel your failing at every bloody obstacle.
    Stay strong x Always here if you need a rant x

  2. My heart went out to you when I read this. It is natural to want to give in but well done for sticking to your guns and I really hope it pays off

  3. Kudos to you for following through on your threats. I’m sure you will benefit in the long term. I’ve never heard of anyone going to these lengths before, so I have a lot of respect for you for going through with it and not giving in.

  4. I have read this post a couple of times and the comments.
    What rings nicely is the fact that without presents you had a calm good Christmas, Christmas is not just about Santa and maybe your kids realise this even more now.
    Kudos to you for following through, hope they stay on the right track and mummy gets to be the hero x x

    1. Mum is the person in high standing at the moment, but I suspect next Christmas will not see such an overwheming build up to the holidays as they realise Christmas is now not just about the money.

  5. I completely respect you for sticking to your guns. Our kids need to learn what is aceptable and what is not. I hope the new year is a happy one for you. Mich x

    1. Thank you Michelle. I hope you have a Happy New Year too. Hopefully I catch up with some more of you this coming year.

  6. Wow. I expected in a way to read “I said no presents but here they are” and then feel disappointed. I always believe that you need to follow through. The fact is kids do need boundaries, they fight them, they test them even if they are completely fit and able but they are way worse with completely permissive parents.

    I’m only sorry that it got so bad for you. Christmas is meant to be a wonderful time and for one reason and another it wasn’t for me this year either. I hope that things are better this year and maybe their birthdays will be time you will see whether it will be borne out.

    But wow, the kicking. Yes, I agree, that has to stop for your sanity and for your child’s wellbeing. How can you have relationships in the real world without these basic things?

    So hard. I don’t think I could be anywhere near as strong.

    1. Sorry to hear your Christmas wasn’t a great time for you. I hope your christmas next year improves too. x

      The strangest thing is that we had the calmest xmas we have ever had as it was spent with the kids chatting and smiling instead of being overwhelmed by what they had or hadn’t got, and the things they have had so far are fully being appreciated.

      1. Ah well then it confirms you absolutely did the right thing. I’m glad it worked out.

  7. Gosh. My first thought was ‘No! How could she?’ But I totally see how you could and had to. Well done.

    I’m veering towards a much more scaled-down Christmas next year (and we already scaled down a lot this year).

    It is so very hard to stick to boundaries and rules, I know.

    1. Something had to give and either I broke down and wailed and screamed like a banshee or I did something about it. I chose to act and try to help my kids nudge another step down the direction of honesty, actions and consequences. I hope they learned something from it, I know I have and I know how well they have dealt with it.

      Even that says something in itself that they didn’t break down into screaming tantruming kids as they fully understood they have been going way further than is acceptable and pushing the boundaries far too far.

  8. Well done to you it cannot have been easy at all and while it was not pleasant for your boys, I’m sure as a mum you suffered the most.

    This is not just about Christmas day and presents, its about teaching right and wrong and the understanding that there are consequences for our actions. If your boys were all younger it would be cruel, but the fact is that they are at an age where they understand cause and effect, in spite of their special needs. If you do not teach them that their behaviour is not acceptable then how will they learn? We are not talking about coming home with muddy clothes or playing music a bit loud here, there are serious consequences for their behaviour outside in the world. This is not you trying to control them or punishing them for thinking differently this is about teaching basic lifeskills that we all need to have, special needs or not. The consequence of not learning this is not being able to be a functioning member of society.

    The fact is here that you are being a good and responsible parent, and if more parents (special needs or not) were doing what you are prepared to do then we would have far fewer issues in the younger generation. Personally I think that they will look back on this and thank you for everything you have done for them, without you their lives would have been very different and the fact that you have so much love for them that you were willing to give up YOUR Christmas in order to ensure they become responsible adults speaks volumes to how much you care. As always you have my endless respect.

    1. You hit the nail right on the head. it’s not just xmas and the presents. It’s consequences of our actions. I love how you have put it, and it explains it perfectly.

      Thank you very much for understand exactly how it is. xx

  9. Hats off to you. That took guts and determination. Not an easy choice at all and not sure one I could follow through with myself.

    1. I suspect that if more parents lived with violence a lot, there would be more cancelled santa presents 🙂 Thanks x

  10. Carrying through a threatened action with children is a lesson I learnt after a goods we years of tearing my hair out with my eldest Son. Eventually I realised I needed to be prepared to carry out the punishment threatened to ensure my Son learnt the consequences of his actions. One year I actually cancelled his birthday party, it hurt to do it but it made him realise I was serious.

    You made a very tough decision and I applaud you for going through with it. It sounds like your children have still enjoyed their Christmas & perhaps they will think twice in future before misbehaving.

    One day your children will thank you for what you have done, I know my eldest did.

    1. Thanks Alli, some kids don’t need this level of action, but others do. I can understand the cancellation of a birthday party and in some situations I would do the same. Yes my kids will still misbehave as they’re kids, as I’d imagine yours would, but the really over the top behaviour has to be dealt with to let them grow up and be part of accepted society I think.

      I pick my battles and there are a lot of things I will overlook, but there needed to be consequences that made an impact instead of shrugged off. Thanks for the comment, it is much appreciated/

  11. It must have been hard to follow through with it but I’m bet your glad you did

    Following you x

    1. Thank you very much. xx

  12. I cried reading this post. I feel so sad for all of you. Whatever I feel about your decision I do believe it was the only one you could make, having made the threat you had to follow through with it if things hadn’t changed.

    1. Don’t cry, we did have a lovely meal and afternoon and it has given the kids the realisation that it isn’t just parents that say constant hitting and kicking is not acceptable.

  13. You say you already think that your youngest may not earn his biggest present all year but if you already knows that he isnt capable of the behaviour that you expect of him then how can you put the conditions on him in the first place??? Too cruel for me.

    1. This year only has a few days to go Aimee. I am hopeful he will get it early next year with the help of school. And I have not said anywhere that he is not capable of the behaviour I expect.

      He is fully capable of it. He just wants his own way and goes over the top when he doesn’t get it. It’s a control thing. Would you give the screaming paddying toddler in a shop the sweets or toy they want? Maybe you would, but I never did. It’s the same principle.

  14. I think this is one of the saddest things I have read.

    What you did is going to stay with those children for the rest of their lives. The fact your eldest had his things confiscated days later shows your way hasn’t taught them anything so you ruined Xmas for nothing really.

    I have a son with special needs and the thought of your boy struggling to control himself and being punished effectively because he doesn’t think like other kids is horrific. Christmas is a time for love and forgiveness in my house, it seems in your house its a time for punishment and control.

    What are you going to do when you can’t control them By taking their things? How will you deal with them then?

    The only thing that makes me smile about this is hopefully one day these kids will be picking your nursing home and I hope what you done to them is at the front of their minds when they drop you off at the cheapest one they can find.

    1. Wow, your comment really is quite something.

      If you’ve read through my comments and the message, you’ll realise that we have had the most calm Christmas we have ever had with the kids being drip fed their xmas presents as a reward for good behaviour, rather than an expectation, even when badly behaved.

      He has not been punished for not thinking like other kids. He’s being rewarded with his gifts when he has not hit anyone else. He has had several little ones, but he needs to do 7 days to get his big one.

      Christmas is meant to be about sharing the family love, and the kids have had plenty of that, without the mad greed that comes from just getting loads of presents which they would have got for being involved in punching and kicking other people – even if it was just each other.

      Jails are full of special needs kids who are violent and haven’t learned to control it. Perhaps you don’t realise that, or perhaps your child is not violent, and if you only have 1 child like that, then there is little issue. If my boy were a single child in a home, there would be no problem with him, but he doesn’t live in a house like that, and he has to learn that his actions have consequences.

      Actually, I’m not getting the blame, they have full respect for Santa for not giving them a Santa present and mum is getting kudos for giving them presents from us as time goes on.

      Eldest had something confiscated, but that is nothing to do with xmas and consistency is the key, not a single act of anything. He has his pride and joy back today, but that might be taken away again by the end of the day. My boys are not toddlers. I think this type of thing in inappropriate for anyone under young tween age, but older kids have to learn that actions have consequences.

      I find your last part of your comment quite offensive. I wouldn’t come to your blog and attack you personally just because I didn’t like something you had done parenting wise with your kids. I might say that I don’t agree with what you did, but getting personal is out of order.

      All it does is show up what little understanding you have of violence. It cannot be rewarded, even if it means that Christmas has to change to accommodate it.

      We had a lovely Christmas, not a horrific one as you suggest. My littlest came up and said I’m a great mum today, after thoroughly enjoying another of his presents that he got this morning. Each one has been enjoyed fully, rather than thrown in a pile and forgotten for months as would usually happen.

      Yes, they were sad that Santa didn’t leave anything for them, but they fully understand why. It’s called working out the issues and having consequences as a direct result of inappropriate behaviour. I see violent special needs kids all the time, whose parents make excuses for bad behaviour and shrug their shoulders and do absolutely nothing about it.

      I have no idea if you get attacked daily by your child, but if you do, and there is no plan of action, then the chances of it improving are negligible. We’ve done the reward good behaviour for years, but now it’s time to add more to the mix. They were warned several times and they were fully aware of the potential before I followed through with it.

      Having special needs is not an excuse to allow someone to beat other people up. No court in the land will take special needs as a mitigating factor if they punch someone who falls, hits their head off a stone floor and dies. It would be murder, the same way as everyone else.

      And no, none of my kids will pick my future nursing home. I’ll do that for myself thanks.

    2. Just because a child has special needs is no reason not to discipline a child. Of course a parent has to make accommodations but this doesn’t mean that a parent doesn’t try to help them learn acceptable behaviour. I think Scottish Mum has done briliantly in carrying through with what she said. This is not easy to do for any parent and all too often its too easy to give in – what sort of message does that send a child? Parenting is a very individual thing even between families with special needs children – what works for one need not work for another. What Scottish Mum did was right for her situation and it is not for us to judge her as we don’t know the extent of her childrens difficulties. As it is, what Scottish Mum did is a brilliant way of helping a special needs child cope with Christmas regardless of whether there is an issue of discipline. Spreading presents out in this way is something I’ve done for my own son and it works a treat in helping him cope with the demands of Christmas. I don’t think for one moment he will be affected by this later in life.

      1. Thank you Annon. I think it is hard for some people to imagine how much Christmas has the negative effect on some children and that it needs to be factored in to the behaviour plan somehow. This is the first year I changed anything, and it wasn’t easy, but it has led to a much more pleasant time overall and I am going to plan it in for next year to spread out the impact of the actual day.

  15. Kudos for going through with this, definitely the right thing to do, can’t have been easy at all though.
    I canceled a weekend away for my eldest a few months ago for similar reasons, and it definitely had a longer-lasting effect.I’m sure your situation is more challenging, but hope it makes a difference for you too.x

    1. Keeping it consistent is what I am doing. Rewards for behaving well, and consequences of losing favourite things for violence and bullying. Things seem to be calming down slowly, but time will tell how it works..

  16. Glad to hear it’s worked out for you, as tough as it was. I’ve wanted to blog about my Christmas, but haven’t been able to, as I can’t admit that it wasn’t wonderful like everyone else’s. I was in tears before 7am as my eldest girl’s first words were ‘oh Santa’s sack is not as big as last year’ and then she proceeded to complain about every gift. She’s only 7 and normally good, but I think the whole excitement and tension just got to her. Add to that a grumpy husband complaining about money and all was not happy here. Suspect next year won’t be much fun either as the Santa sack will be much smaller. Usually Christmas is my favourite time of year 🙁 On the plus side, our ASD girl was a little star, stayed calm and was happy with everything! So you never can tell…. Hope your days improve and that middler gets his big prezzie soon after New Year x

    1. Am hoping he gets his biggie pressie soon. He has had a few little ones, but by little I mean just not the most expensive one. Maybe Kate’s suggestion from earlier on in comments would help you next Christmas with bit and bobs every hour or couple of hours to that she doesn’t see it all at once to compare it to the size she had this year. I really, really like Kate’s plan of action.

  17. well done you, and I whole heartedly agree you should only make threats that you are prepared to carry out. What a fabulous parent you sound. To make such a serious threat and stick by it takes a lot of bottle when it is something as drastic as that. Maybe just maybe they will learn their lesson for a while and your life will be easier.

    Im sure too many children do get far to much and have melt downs on Christmas day as it is so overwhelming. I phoned my granddaughter on Xmas day to ask her what she got…..the reply “too much I cant remember” she could not even list her bike!!

    Hope you have a more peaceful and disciplined 2013. A huge round of applause to you? Could I do it…dont know….so I have never been brave enough to threatened it.

    1. Thanks Elaine, I knew I had to carry it out to be believed at all, but it has been a much nicer Christmas as a result and I’ve not hated every moment as I usually do with overwhelmed kids. I will change how I do things next Christmas and I will probably take a leaf out of Kate’s book with it.

  18. Knowing my situation, I totally applaud you for this. Life is never easy and teaching children this, is admirable. Parenting doesn’t come with a manual and every parent has to find their own way through difficult situations. I think you are incredibly brave and I think what you did can only have a positive effect on your family. Good on you x x x

    1. I wish you all the luck for tomorrow and I hope it all goes well for you too. Thanks for all the chat today, and hopefully we have got Facebook sorted for PMs. I have to be reminded about Facebook though, as I tend to forget about it.

  19. I actively avoid not threatening anything that I am not prepared to carry out. My sister spent her children’s childhood doing that and they totally ignored any of her attempts at discipline.

    I did threaten no presents once or twice but my kids know me well enough to know that I mean it. Missy actually got worried about it as her gran tells her about when she was little and her brother was so naughty that all he got on Christmas Day was a piece of coal! She kept saying “How do you know if you’ve got coal?”

    What we decided to do is split the presents up through the day. When they got up, they found a letter from Santa telling them the elves had hidden their stockings and two sets of presents. So they got the stockings when we were ready to let them have them (they were hidden in Daddy’s wardrobe). Then they went downstairs to a set of presents and they had to take it in turn opening them. Then an alarm clock went off at 9 with a set of clues to the next set of presents (and again, they had to take it in turns), then they had one more set to open at 11! Then we put off opening presents from family after our lunch, which was sometime after 3pm. It spread them nicely through the day, and they took it really well. The children stayed pretty calm, they had a ball hunting for presents and got time to appreciate each block of presents (tho as they got a lot of Lego, they haven’t even touched some of it yet!) It has been one of our best Christmases with the children for sure and we’ll do it again next year.

    1. We had a much more pleasant day for Xmas day this year than we’ve ever had in the past, despite the reasons for doing it. Middler is usually so overwhelmed that he spends most of the day in meltdown, but it stayed calm and he was tickled pink with the pressie he got after lunch, so the idea of spreading things out over xmas day, I think, should be part of the experience for many more kids.

      I have really liked the effect of spreading pressies over a few days, but for kids who have behaved, I would say your way of doing it is fabulous. You should make up kits for ideas, the letter and clues and sell them as a way to smooth the path of Xmas Day 🙂

  20. I don’t think I could have done it; my heart aches at the thought of the children coming down Christmas morning and not finding any presents but then I’ve never had to live with that kind of behaviour so actually, when I say I don’t think I could have done it, I should say it’s impossible to know what I could or couldn’t do unless I was in that situation. My heart aches for you also because it must have been one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to do.
    I totally admire you and wish you and your family all the best for the future xx

    1. They did know there wouldn’t be any presents in the morning as they had been well warned. Two of them are now enjoying the current arrangement of presents coming daily, even if they are just small things. It was tough on Xmas Even but was much easier from xmas day onwards. x

  21. I’m not sure that I could have done the same thing (although I wanted to in the run up to Christmas and with far less provocation than you had to deal with!) but I totally admire and respect you for going through with it.

    I hope the penny drops soon for the child still waiting on his big presents so that you can have some respite from his behaviour when he starts to meet his targets. It must be so unbelievably tough for you. 🙁

    1. I wouldn’t have done it if they had been much younger as mine are tweens, but they seemed to take it really well. I think the fact it was the same rule for all and not one of them singled out made it easier to accept as a pack thing tbh.

      Once things settle back with school, I am hoping middler manages to keep it together for his big pressie. Would be nice to see him with it.

  22. i really admire what you’ve done. some parents have a lot to learn from you. i do hope it all pays off. xx

    1. Thank you Paula and thanks for the comment. It’s hard to know what to do for the best sometimes.

  23. I’m not sure I could have done what you did but your reasons are totally correct and seeing it through is probably harder for the adult than it is for the child and I have a lot of respect for you for that.

    Also, maybe a different approach totally to Christmas next year is needed – slowly easing in and out; one present an hour (or whatever) – make your own traditions that suit you and not society.

    I’m going to retweet this – hope you’re ok with that.

    1. I agree, a different way of doing xmas is going to be definitely worth doing. No way has to be set in stone, and the slow method seem far more calming. x

  24. Wow, total respect to you, such an easy thing to threaten and so hard to carry through! I so admire you and have been gripped to every word on your post. I hope the lessons have been learned and that Christmas normality returns for you all next year. Do join my Christmas blog hop, this is such a different take on Christmas!

    1. Thank you, I have joined up. It’s a tough read for some parents I think.

  25. Well done for carrying it out, I don’t know if I could have been as strong as you. I kept threatening no presents if he was naughty but don’t know whether I could have brought myself to carry it out! Luckily he was quite well behaved this year so I didn’t have to! x

    1. It was one of those moments where you either carried it out or gave up forever with any kind of discipline at all. Glad you had a trouble free xmas, it’s what we all should be able to enjoy x

  26. Well done for sticking to your guns, it can’t have been easy!

    1. Thanks Liz. Christmas Eve was tough, but after Xmas day, it has got easier and easier..

  27. Applause, yo have done that which i quite honestly at this stage in time would be too weak to do. You set boundaries, and you followed through and have done so consistently so far. Well done, and although I am sure there will be others like me that say they couldn’t do it. it sounds like the dynamic of your household will benefit fro it.

    My boys are still Tiddlers really but certainly they know when they are playing up, and in the run up to Christmas they had plenty of ‘threats’ that there would be no presents and today just days after i have ‘threatened’ to take their toys away for bad behaviour. Christmas day was awful in terms of total melt-downs and arguments over presents. It is so silly to actually put them and yourself through that.Next Christmas we will be doing things differently. I do not know what it is like living with a child with special needs, but i know how it is to live in a household that is fraught with the different needs and wants of its inhabitants, and this post has given me the confidence to dispense with the threats and follow through with my discipline for the good of the household…just like would occur in the wider society. Thanks

    1. I couldn’t have done it if they were younger I suspect. They are at the age when it really means something now, but for how long, I have no idea. It’s easy to say we’re going to do something, then not do it as by the time it comes around things have calmed down. I regularly take things away from the kids. The eldest has his x-box confiscated more than he has it, but that means he never spends weeks at a time on it either.

      I wouldn’t have done it just for regular tantrums though, this stuff is hitting and kicking adults, and constantly swearing in front of me. I decided that the behaviour didn’t deserve money spent on it until it improved. For 2 kids it improved quite rapidly, but for how long is another story. Other parents kids at school have a lot to answer for though. One of littlest’s pals has had about £1000 (possibly more) spent on his xmas alone. I didn’t spend that on all my presents put together for everyone.

      I think it’s about a bit of balance in the mix. Happily we avoided the Christmas day meltdowns which was very nice indeed. I learned quick that kids just got immune to being shouted at so it was pointless doing it unless they were in danger. I get lots of things wrong though, we all do as our kids are all so different.

      I wish I had started with a couple Santa presents on Xmas day and mum and dad ones in the next few days as surprises to look forward to in the holidays. We live and learn.

      Good luck

  28. As someone with no kids, I am always amazed at how parents cope. Being tough I think is a GREAT way to be kind in the long term. Good on you and I hope it works!

    1. I’ve seen parents who are tough for no reason as their kids are pretty well repectful, but some kids I suspect parents just give their kids whatever they want to try and keep them happy for a while. I think that just makes for trouble as they get older. I have no idea how this will go long term, but it’s been worth a try. Thanks for the comment. x

  29. Good for you for making a stand. The closest I have got to cancelling Christmas is to phone the elves a few days before the big day and to tell them ‘all right the kids aren’t behaving, we need to scale back the gifts.” while the kids were listening and screaming at me not to do it. It did work in that the kids started to behave because they were scared the elves wouldn’t make them their presents.

    1. That used to work when they were younger, but now they are past the age where any threat does anything at all. I think they’ve realised I mean business when I say I will do something, but at the end of the day, they’ll still get their presents, just not when they should have got them, so I am hoping it will make a difference.

  30. That must have been extremely hard but I think you’ve made the right decision so that he relearns his boundaries. Huge hug.

    1. It’s been ok since Xmas Day, but the build up to Xmas Day was not nice, I have to say. Most parents wouldn’t do this, but there are times I think, that parents have to take a stand and then go with it. Thanks for the comment. x

  31. I thought the kids would be much more upset than they were. I couldn’t have done what you did.

    1. Christmas Eve was the hardest thing and middler getting nothing at all yesterday. Eldest gets nothing today, so it’s a slow distribution of presents. I suspect middler won’t make his big present in the next year, but I can hope he does.

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