Why your toddler doesn’t want to (and shouldn’t have to) sit on Santa’s lap

Recently a good friend of mine reached out to me and asked me how she might gently explain to her husband “why it is developmentally inappropriate and generally weird and creepy” for them to take their infant to go sit on Santa’s lap. (Since we have approximately 85 friends with babies right now this couple’s identity is more than safe, it’s raining babies in Vegucationmama land!) I wrote out a response to her and then realized that it actually might make a pretty decent blog post. So, here is my response to my dear mama friend:

Hi honey. I can appreciate the challenge you are having. It is such a cultural norm! Really, it is about two things: developmental appropriateness and sexual abuse prevention.

Children under age three have strong binds to their primary caregivers and loved ones. They have a fundamental chemical need to spend their time in the arms and presence of the people with whom they’ve bonded. They are also very sensitive to unfamiliar sensory stimuli because the world is so new to them and it takes a lot of brain power to process everything. A shopping mall is already a very overstimulating environment. Add to that the child’s ability to sense the stress hormones radiating off of you as you stand, frustrated in a long line full of bored and over-excited children. After all of that stimulation you end the experience by forcing your child into the arms of a giant stranger covered in bright red fur. That is scary for most young ones.

Now let’s talk about sexual abuse prevention. The number one way to ensure our children are protected from sexual abuse is to ensure that they are confident, informed owners of their bodies. This means that they not only know and use the proper names of ALL of their body parts, it also means that they should not ever be physically required to touch any person they don’t want to touch. Yes, that means if they don’t want to kiss grandma or sit on Santa’s lap for a memorable photo, they shouldn’t have to. The message to every child from the beginning should be this, “You are in charge of your body and you should be in charge of when, where, how, and who you touch. Other people are in charge of their own bodies and they should be in charge of when, where, how, and who they touch. Nobody gets to decide about personal touch for others.


Here is a  poor-quality cell phone picture of the picture hanging on our refrigerator.

At eight-years-old, my daughter just sat on Santa’s lap for a photo for the first time this year. She has seen a Santa at her grandfather’s office Christmas party as well, but she has never been made to sit on his lap, she has chosen it for herself. That is a big difference. In fact, after her grandma brought us the photo of our daughter on Santa’s lap, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the children sit next to Santa on a bench. This was the most respectful arrangement I could have expected.



~ by vegucationmama on December 4, 2014.

One Response to “Why your toddler doesn’t want to (and shouldn’t have to) sit on Santa’s lap”

  1. Reblogged this on chelsmariie77.

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