Select Page

didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas. As many of my friends and classmates prepared for the holidays with a Christmas tree and stories of Santa Claus, I lit the candles on the menorah. Sometimes Hanukkah overlapped with Christmas. Sometimes it didn’t. I remember asking my parents for a Hanukkah bush (something we never got) because I wanted to feel like the other children and the excitement that came from having a tree. And while my mom told my sister and I when we were very young the true story of Santa Claus, we had to promise never to ruin the magic for other children. We never did. It wasn’t until I was in Grade 8 that my mom got remarried, and we also started to celebrate Christmas …

  • with the big family dinners,
  • with the decorated tree (I still remember when our dog ate as much popcorn as we strung),
  • and with the presents from Santa, even though we all knew a little bit more at this point.

While Santa slowly became a part of my life, he did so at a time when threats of coal and Santa’s watching, were no longer concerns.

I remember my first year of teaching, when December may have been my favourite month of the year. Why? Students had to behave for fear that if they didn’t, there would be no presents under the tree. I used Santa Claus constantly. There was always the worry that he was watching, and that he might not be happy. Nineteen years later, as December comes along again, I start to question what I did so many years ago. Now there’s not just Santa, but the Elf on the Shelf. It’s like we’re having children live the Nineteen Eighty-Four reality, but with a jolly Big Brother watching us and bringing along toys for good behaviour.

  • Touch the elf? The magic might be gone.
  • Misbehave? Presents might not be coming your way.
  • Choose to not comply? There will be consequences.

This holiday season can be stressful enough. With school ending for a couple of weeks, and routines that children know and rely on being constantly changed, there is a lot to dysregulate our youngest learners. Imagine then that this is coupled with the fear of upsetting/disappointing Santa or the Elf. (There’s even a Jewish equivalent with the Mensch on a Bench, which might reduce the stress of not being included with the Elf option, but leads to its own concerns about disappointing the Mensch.)

I am not trying to be the holiday Grinch and take away all that is fun about this time of the year. While some might argue that my heart hasn’t grown two sizes yet 🙂 , I’d like to think that it has, and that’s why these traditions concern me so much. Is keeping Santa and the Elf (or Mensch) happy, an exercise in self-control? What impact might this have on our kids, and is there another way to appreciate the magic of the holiday season without the additional stress? When I overhear a child asking, “Can Santa stop watching me?,” I wonder if this might be his expression of dysregulation. In the spirit of the holidays, should we start listening to children like him and making a change?

Self-Reg Seeds Learning Journey Symbol of a seed sprouting 2 leafs

What is Self-Reg?

Self-Reg is a pathway to calm, resilience, motivation, learning, & well-being.

Early Years



The Shanker Method

5 Domain Framework

Free Self-Reg 101 Webinar

Our Mission & Values

About Stuart Shanker

Self-Reg Sunrise Learning Journey symbol of a sunrise over a leaf

Explore how learning Shanker Self-Reg can help your approach to behaviour, dysregulation, emotions and any of the challenges that brought you to Self-Reg as a someone who cares.

Level 1 Certificate Programs

*NEW* Education Assistants

Early Childhood Development

Self-Reg Foundations

School Leadership

ASK Courses

*NEW* Gray Brain Science

Reframing Bullying

Enhancing Resilience

Self-Reg Parenting

Learning for Teams

On-Demand Webinars

Upcoming Events

Summer Symposium

Book a Presenter

Self-Reg Quilt Learning Journey Symbol of a leaf in a patch of a quilt

Self-Reg can be practical, community based and woven with other initiatives, movements or priorities. How can you bring Self-Reg to your community or context?

What is Applied Self-Reg Knowledge?

Blogs & Vlogs


Webinars & Upcoming Events

School Leadership Certificate

Learning Facilitator's Certificate

Living, Learning & Linking Certificate

Self-Reg Schools Handbook


Mentoring & Consulting

Self-Reg Haven Learning Journey Symbol of two hands holding and nurturing a leaf up

Havens are our dream for all! A Self-Reg Haven is a place where everyone feels safe in every way: physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally.

I Know a Haven When I Find One

5 Self-Reg Haven Look Fors

Havens 101: Group Learning

RADAR Project Planning Tool

Self-Reg Schools Handbook

A fist in fromt of a brain all coloured blue, rad and gray in line with the Triune Brain

Reframing Stress Behaviour with Gray Brain Science

Certificate Program Starts August 1st

Facilitated Certificates

Self-Directed Courses

On-Demand Webinars

Events - Live & Online

Tools & Strategies

Speakers & Presentations

Books & Publications

Blogs & Vlogs


Graphics with Blogs



Translated Resources

Media Releases

Meet Our Team


Contact Us