You better watch out
you better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Clause is coming to townFrom the Song – Santa Clause is Coming to Town
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t heard that song. It’s a Christmas classic and it has a catchy tune. The song, as you know, goes on to explain how Santa is watching kids closely. Watching how they behave. He even knows when they are sleeping or awake. He’s watching them to know if they are being bad or good. Of course, the good ones can expect bigger and better gifts. The bad ones, well, they are lucky if they get anything.
To increase the likelihood that a person will follow closely and not stray from THE path, there’s nothing like a constant reminder that someone above is watching! Always watching. Watching your every move, every thought and hearing your every word. Watching, listening and keeping record. Children are vulnerable to this type of messaging; especially when dangled in front of them with a subtle threat of possible punishment or loss of privilege.
If you’ve grown up in the christian church, or if you joined later but now have kids following you along, you’ve likely heard many christian songs written for kids. Some are sweet and comforting. Some are encouraging and motivating. Many are also filled with subtle threat-like messages which, when repeated over and over again, can take root in a child’s mind and begin laying down paths of fear, guilt and hidden shame.
This morning while sipping my coffee I had a flashback to one of those songs. One of the creepy ones. I remember it well and looked it up on youtube for old times sake. It gave me the chills. I’ve posted it here so you can listen to it and read the lyrics. Take the two minutes and twenty-three seconds to listen to it (if you can get to the end), and then I’ll share a couple quick thoughts about it.
I can still see myself singing this as a kid and I clearly remember feeling awkward about it while also believing it. Young, impressionable and wanting to please my parents, the Sunday School teachers, and, of course, God (the father up above).
The main idea of the song is “be careful”. Encouraging someone to be careful is not in and of itself a problem. As a loving father I too sometimes remind my kids to be careful.
Be careful (be mindful of) the area around you as you bike to your friends house. Look both ways before you cross the street. There could be oncoming cars. The danger here is the cars, not me.
Be careful when you use the ninja mixer, those blades are very sharp. The danger here is it not me, it’s the blade.
Be careful as you experiment with the stock market, it’s not an automatic money tree! The danger here is not me, it’s the temptation of making quick easy money.
Don’t let anyone force you to do anything. The threat is not me, it is those who could seek to harm.
The list could go on. A loving parent offers guidance, counsel, and sets boundaries when those are appropriate. That’s not the issue here.
Think about it. “Be careful because the father up above is watching.” He is watching with love … so be careful. The danger here, the threat so to speak, is the one watching from above.
The whole song sounds like a threat telling kids that God is watching them so they better be careful what they do, say, think, hear, see, where they go, who they trust because of the loving father doesn’t like it, well … the song leaves that open.
It doesn’t offer any indication as to what I should and shouldn’t see, hear, think, do, say. There are other songs, sunday school lessons and bible verses to do that. It just sows fear into the minds of kids. God is watching your every move and you don’t want to displease him because he loves you. So be careful. You can’t hide. You wouldn’t want to make God sad or angry because he loves.
That is not love. That is manipulation. A subtle insertion in the minds of little ones that their thoughts and actions can displease God. They know, because they’ve been told in other songs or at other moments, that being counted among those who displease God can have serious consequences.
I’m not suggesting that all Sunday School songs are bad. I am however underlining the fact that many of them are and it’s not difficult to recognize as much when we take a step back and honestly ask ourselves what those songs are communicating and what are they doing to the minds and hearts of our children.
Indoctrination is not love. Manipulation is not love, it is control and it’s born out of fear.
As parents, we need to think through how it is we go about raising our kids. In our biggest moments of insecurity and fear, we can easily revert to such tactics, even unknowingly, because we fear losing control. Sometimes the only way not to lose control seems to be by exerting more of it.
What about you? What is your reaction to this particular song? Do you agree or disagree that there is something off about it?
3 thoughts on “O Be Careful Little Eyes (keeping the Kids in Tow)”
Actually, we’re all born with an understanding, a conscience, and our parents are the guardians of us (Supposed to be, but many didn’t have parents that guarded, had the time, and sometimes tragedy. More difficult today, in some aspects.). Inwardly, we know when we’re doing wrong, if we listen to that little voice inside. It’s always there. The question is whether one will listen or make excuses.
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Thank you for writing this! I have had the exact same thoughts about this song from my childhood. Not only is it creepy, it primes kids to be hyper-vigilant about “sin” (whatever that is) and breeds anxiety, fear and shame.
Exactly. Without claiming all christian songs are like that, there are many that deserve a second look!
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