The Parental Intelligence Newsletter

18 December 2011

Hi, this is Bob Collier inviting you to 'explore the psychology of happy and successful parenting', connect with bright minds, discover new ideas and sail outside the mainstream for a while without running aground.

All that and more.

In this issue of the Parental Intelligence Newsletter there are links to 17 articles and 3 notices and items of news. As always, I trust you will find in my latest collection of parenting, education and personal development ideas and information from around the internet something that will make a positive difference to your life - and, through you, to the lives of your children.

Please scroll down to pick and choose whatever is of interest and useful to you.

Thank you for being here! I appreciate this opportunity to be of help to you in your parenting adventure and wish you all the happiness and success you would wish yourself.

See you next time!




Old Saint Nick Needs A Modern Makeover
by Dawn Fry

Holiday season brings the perennial return of Santa Claus. According to traditional lore, St. Nick flies around the world on his reindeer-powered sleigh. He lavishes gifts upon the good children of the world, and as for the naughty youngsters…well, they can expect lumps of fossil fuel in their stockings. This jovial, rotund old fellow provides a magical experience that enriches the lives of children. Right? 

Well, not necessarily.  

Parents often recount their childhood stories as cherished memories and want to recreate the same experiences for their children. Unfortunately, parents' good intentions may actually lead to mixed messages that may be harmful to children-and there is no magic in that. After taking a closer look at how the Santa "fantasy" really affects children, you'll realize that it's time to give the traditional Santa fantasy a modern makeover.

You Better Not Pout….

"He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake." The song "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" provides an example of the mixed messages associated with the traditional Santa Claus myth. In this song, the take-home message for many children is: "Santa is watching you, so you better be good. If you are not good Santa won't bring you toys."

Adults, in some cases, take advantage of this message to control children's behavior. A department store employee once boasted that she had the perfect way to keep customers' children under control. Whenever children became unruly, she would warn them that Santa had cameras all over the store, and he could see them being bad. If they didn't stop misbehaving, the clerk warned, they wouldn't receive any toys on Christmas. She took great pride in the fact that this trick worked every time.

What a creepy idea: Santa watches and judges you, and worse, he may even punish you. Youngsters believe that if they don't perform in acceptable ways, Santa won't bring them toys. This reward/punishment scenario encourages children to be good for the sake of a reward, and even worse, it instills a sort of "Big Brother is watching" feeling. So be good to get toys, and be good because someone's watching you. What happened to be good for goodness sake?

He's Gonna Find Out Who's Naughty or Nice….

Another harmful message implicit in the Santa myth is that material objects reflect quality of character. In this faulty logic, if being good leads to toys, then receiving toys signify good behavior. Take, for instance, the following example-a true story. 

After the holidays, several children discussed the exciting gifts Santa had brought them. One child claimed that she had been so good that Santa brought her the bike she had really wanted. Another little girl, who had suffered parental abuse and neglect, listened to the first girl's story. Later, in a very meek voice, she asked her caretaker a heartbreaking question: Since she had been good, when was Santa going to bring her bike?  

In this case, and unfortunately in others, the Santa myth sets children up for disappointment and self-doubt.

I'm Telling You Why….

At about age five children begin to question the Santa myth by asking such questions as:
      Is Santa Claus real?
      How can he make it to all the houses in one night?
      How can he fit down the chimney?
      We don't have a chimney, so how can Santa come to my house?
      How can this be Santa when we just saw him at another store?
      Do reindeer really fly?

For each of these questions, parents must extend the fantasy (i.e. generate more lies) to keep the myth alive just a little longer. While these adults think it's okay to deceive children when it is for their own good, it may actually harm them.

Whether they finally figure it out for themselves or their parents confess the truth about Santa, children can experience sadness, regrets and often, a sense of betrayal. Their parents-the adults whom they had trusted the most-lied to them. What good is a short-term fantasy if it damages a child's core sense of trust?

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Parents need not do away with the Santa experience all together. A fun and emotionally safe alternative to the traditional myth is the Santa Claus Game. In the Santa game everyone pretends that Santa is real. This enables everyone to enjoy all the activities that others enjoy. The main difference is that your children understand that Santa is just pretend.

You can introduce the game during the pre-school years. Of course, at this age children are too young to truly understand the difference between pretend and real. But you can take them to visit Santa and do all the Santa related activities children like to do. From time to time you can say things like, "This Santa game is fun!" You can even put out milk and cookies for "Santa," again explaining that it's just pretend.

As the children get older and want to know more, explain that in this pretend game Santa has magic and can do all the amazing things that people talk about. Talk about Santa in a fairytale, magical kind of fashion. The fact that it is a game will not detract any pleasure from the child's fun.

By the time children are five and six, you can stop the emphasis on the pretend factor. At that age they will still be excited to visit Santa and sit on his lap, even though they know it is all pretend. When the children are ten and eleven years old, they can still get presents from Santa and many will still want to put out milk and cookies. The difference now is that they will have that "special twinkle" in their eyes when they ask, "What kind of cookies would Santa like this year?"

Eventually you won't have to talk about it being a game anymore; you'll simply have fun. And isn't that what the holiday spirit is all about?

Children are excellent at pretend games and enjoy them immensely. Even though the Santa game is make-believe, it differs from the traditional myth in a crucial way: All the players know it is a game. Adults may then tell children that not all families play the game and that some children don't know it is a game. This information explains why Santa doesn't come to all families, and why some children think Santa is real. It also clears up why some children don't get what they want from Santa, even when they have been "good."

Children who learn the Santa game equally enjoy the magic and excitement that others receive from the traditional Santa experience. Most important, though, they don't suffer the disillusionment and sense of betrayal of discovering that Santa isn't real. So keep in mind that when you sing, "You better not lie, I am telling you why"-a child's trust and happiness is at stake.

# # #

About the Author:

Dawn Fry is the founder and CEO of Helping Our Children Productions, a publishing company that provides educational CD's giving practical help to families and childcare professionals. Ms. Fry has more than 60,000 hours of professional experience working with children. For more information, visit
NOTE: This article is copyrighted! (c)2002-2004 Dawn Fry. All rights are reserved. Limited use and reproduction is allowed within the permission guidelines listed below.

Permissions - The above article is offered for free use in your ezine, print publication or on your web site, so long as the author's resource box at the end is included. Notification of publication would be appreciated, please send an email to . A courtesy copy of your publication would be appreciated.  Thank you.


36 Obvious Reasons You Are Capable of Natural Birth
by Mama Birth

We hear so much negativity about birth these days that it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle that women are divinely designed to birth babies. This is a miracle, but it is also so totally normal and a simple bodily function. Here are a few reminders (yes, many of them obvious) of the truth that we have forgotten about our bodies.

Read more ...

It's a Boy! World, Meet Ben.
by Jason Kotecki

Benjamin Walter Kotecki was welcomed into the world last Wednesday night at 11:19 pm. Apparently, he was determined to be a November baby! He was born in the water, in our home, under the twinkly glow of Christmas lights and amidst the soft chorus of Christmas carols. The environment was as peaceful, comfortable and magical as we'd hoped it would be.

Read more ...

Dangers of "Crying It Out"
by Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D.

Letting babies "cry it out" is an idea that has been around since at least the 1880s when the field of medicine was in a hullaballoo about germs and transmitting infection and so took to the notion that babies should rarely be touched ...

In the 20th century, behaviorist James Watson, interested in making psychology a hard science, took up the crusade against affection as president of the American Psychological Association. He applied the mechanistic paradigm of behaviorism to child rearing, warning about the dangers of too much mother love. The 20th century was the time when "men of science" were assumed to know better than mothers, grandmothers and families about how to raise a child. Too much kindness to a baby would result in a whiney, dependent, failed human being. Funny how he got away with this with no evidence to back it up! Instead there is evidence all around (then and now) showing the opposite to be true.

Read more ...

Psychologist Jill Lany Reveals Surprisingly Early Gift of Gab
by Susan Guibert

From the moment they're born, babies are highly attuned to communicate and motivated to interact. And they're great listeners.

New research from the University of Notre Dame shows that during the first year of life, when babies spend so much time listening to language, they're actually tracking word patterns that will support their process of word-learning that occurs between the ages of about 18 months and two years.

Read more ...

The Problem With Cute Kids
by Janet Lansbury

Is it our well-meaning perception of children as cute and adorable that causes us to treat them less respectfully than we would another adult?  Is every child's round head ours to touch? Are babies ours to pick up and hold; their cheeks ours to pinch?

Read more ...

Parent-Child Connectedness Takes Us Beyond Emotional Intelligence
from The Parent Scientist

I couldn't have stopped crying even if I had wanted to. I don't remember now why I was crying, but I remember the look on my father's face as he begged me to stop. "What am I going to do with you? All the neighbors are going to think you've gone crazy!" It was summer and the windows were open. And I was experiencing heartbreak like only a four-year-old can.

Forty years later, what has stayed with me is the deeply jarring alienation brought on by my father's inability to cope with, let alone understand, my emotional experience. He just wanted it to stop.

Read more ...

Living in a Dress Rehearsal
by Ronit Baras

Kids are little philosophers practicing the theories of the great philosopher of all times in real life. They live in the simplest stage show that is their life, without much sophistication and with no budget. This is ability smart, knowledgeable and experienced grownups need to learn from their children.

Kids do not have tomorrows. The younger they are, the more limited their understanding of time and the harder it is to explain to them what they will gain tomorrow if they just try a bit harder or wait a little bit longer today. One of parents' biggest frustrations is their inability to explain why to try harder today for some imaginary tomorrow. Kids, on the other hand, do not understand why they should try harder, because from their point of view, fun is the best way to navigate through life and "hard" and "fun" do not go together.

Read more ...

Turning the Negative Into a Positive
from Liberated Family

Why is it that you're telling your child, "No"? Is it for their safety? Your own fears? Your convenience? Think about it - how do you feel when you're told "no" over and again? It's depressing, restrictive, and so frustrating! And you're an adult - how do you think your kids, who do not have the mental capacity and experience you do, feel?

Read more ...

Let The Youngest Teach You Mindfulness
by Laura Weldon

Ask any child. When adults meet them for the first time, standard questions include, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" right after classics like, "What grade are you in?" and "What's your favorite subject?"

Read more ...

Building a Strong Family
by Ann Lahrson Fisher

Families with children in traditional schools can enjoy many benefits of the homeschooling life. Why? Because living and learning with kids is amazingly natural for most of us, almost instinctive. After all, isn't this exactly how our ancestors lives, parents guiding children, learning together as family and using whatever methods and approaches were at hand?

Read more ...

"He's Bullied, But He's Still Got to Go to School!" … Doesn't He?
by Carma

I'm filing this in the "Stupid School Tricks" category because this does not happen anywhere except in school (and if the school does nothing to promote it, it certainly does very little of real impact to stop it). If this were happening to your child anywhere else - anywhere else: church, the YMCA, the park - you would stop it. You would talk to the Sunday School teacher or church board or just change churches. You would go to the Y at a different time, or find another place to work out. You would stay inside, or go to the park only when the bullies were in school. You would find options.

You would protect your child

Read more ...

When a Nation's Head of Education Chooses Homeschooling, It Hits the Fan
by Linda Dobson

I became aware of Prime Minister - and Education Minister - Holness' decision to homeschool last week when a friend in Jamaica contacted me. She let me know she had loaned Prime Minister Holness one of my books. She said he still hasn't returned it yet, kindly insinuating that maybe the book (and hers!) had something to do with the minister's announcement.

Thrilled with the news, I wrote a letter to the minister and his wife that appears in yesterday's Jamaica Observer. From a line in the letter, the paper titled it, "JA fortunate to have homeschooling father as education minister."

Read more ...

by Sara McGrath

The unschooling approach to homeschooling is not a new approach to learning. It's the way we learn naturally when left to follow our interests. It's also the way most children learned before modern compulsory schooling. Unschooling is not a method, as you will learn, but a flexible approach for individual families and individual children.

Read more ...

The Unschool Elephant: Defining the terms
by Laurette Lynn

Let me start by saying that I was inspired to write this based on a question from a listener that appeared on Facebook.  The conversation was had - or rather hashed and ultimately amounted to little more than several of us hearing ourselves talk.  I don't really think we got anywhere, but I'm not entirely sure that the intention was to get anywhere anyway.  Unless I misunderstood the question, it appears that my answers were not going to be satisfactory anyway.  Cest la Vie.

Read more ...

What Does It Mean to Be Well-Educated?
by Alfie Kohn

No one should offer pronouncements about what it means to be well-educated without meeting my wife. When I met Alisa, she was at Harvard, putting the finishing touches on her doctoral dissertation in anthropology. A year later, having spent her entire life in school, she decided to do the only logical thing . . . and apply to medical school. Today she is a practicing physician -- and an excellent one at that, judging by feedback from her patients and colleagues.

She will, however, freeze up if you ask her what 8 times 7 is, because she never learned the multiplication table. And forget about grammar ("Me and him went over her house today" is fairly typical) or literature ("Who's Faulkner?"). After a dozen years, I continue to be impressed on a regular basis by the agility of her mind as well as by how much she doesn't know. (I'm also bowled over by what a wonderful person she is, but that's beside the point.)

Read more ...

The Path of Least Resistance
by Robert Fritz

People who come to my native Boston often ask me, "How did they ever design the layout of the roads?" There appears to be no recognizable city planning in Boston. The Boston roads were actually formed by utilizing existing cow paths.

But how did these cow paths come to be?

Read more ...


How I Parent

A short and hopefully useful instantly downloadable FREE e-book about how I've parented my own children.

Download your copy here (290KB) 

Why Dads Leave

A new book from John W. Travis and Meryn G. Callander, founder members of the Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children (aTLC).

"Why We Wrote This Book

As the founder of the first wellness center in the US, John (better known as Jack) has been a leader in defining wellness as more than the generally recognized physical dimension of fitness, nutrition, and stress reduction. Jack was joined by Meryn in 1979, and since that time we have together pursued our passion to reclaim the original definitions of wellness to include the mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and planetary dimensions of wellbeing.

Our focus over the past two decades has been in the field of infant and child wellness. It is from this, and our own personal experiences in becoming parents, that we developed our hypothesis about why men leave, physically or emotionally, after the birth of a child. Our intention here is not to present the final word on this phenomenon, but to initiate an inquiry into the Dynamic of Disappearing Dads (DDD)."

Visit for all the details

Beat Depression The Drug Free Way

A new and eagerly awaited book from Ian White, originator of Af-x® Therapy (and the only person ever to write an article exclusively for the Parental Intelligence Newsletter).

Beat Depression The Drug Free Way: Getting Better by Breaking the Myths

"Do You Really Know The Truth About Your Depression?"

Get the facts at

Thank you for reading the Parental Intelligence Newsletter!

The next issue of this newsletter will be published on or about 8 January 2012

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Published by Bob Collier, Canberra, Australia  

Email: bobcollier[at]parental-intelligence[dot]com 

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