"You Better Not Cry." By Jennifer Cattaui for

“Ho Ho Ho!” my dad bellowed to our neighbor’s four-year-old child, Kaitlan. His rosy-cheeked face lit up in a welcoming smile. “What would you like for Christmas this year, little lady?” 

Full of hope, she rattled off her list – WebKinz, a bike, a pony, a gigantic Ugly Doll – while staring awestruck at Santa. He nodded and smiled as she spoke. But before he said she’d get her wishes, his face turned serious.

“I hear that you’re not sleeping in your own room,” Santa mused, eyebrows raised in a not-so-jolly way. His eyes flicked over to mom and dad, who stood nearby. “You must start sleeping in your own bed, starting tonight,” he said authoritatively. He never came right out and said, “lump of coal,” but clearly, a large bag of toys was hanging in the balance.

That night, Kaitlan slept peacefully in her own bed, dreaming of sugarplums, fairies and impossible-to-find Elmos.

Meet Behavior Modification Santa: B-Mod, for short.

It all started when my neighbors came over to my parents’ house for some drinks. They lamented about Kaitlan’s princess bed and all the royal accoutrements that went with it, purchased in order to entice their daughter to sleep in her own room. They hadn’t spent one whole night alone since she was born.

Tearful tale told, they delicately asked my white-haired father if he would help them out. They laid out their plan: they’d rent the costume. He’d do the dirty work. My father, holding a merry-making beverage, agreed. And B-Mod Santa was born.

B-Mod quickly became all the rage around our neighborhood. He was kind and generous, but very specific about “naughty and nice.” Behavior parameters could be custom-tailored by the subject’s own parents – covering sleep schedules, eating habits, potty training and etiquette.

I realize that good parenting can achieve the same results without such subterfuge, but even good parents know how quickly a few tired yeses can snowball into lawlessness. As an exhausted parent to two tiny insomniacs, I was all for having B-Mod pay a visit to our house. Perhaps my dad could throw some of that merry magic my way and get my girls to go to bed at eight, eat all of their dinner, and refrain from running around me, giggling maniacally, when I try to get them dressed.