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A close call for the "Elf on the Shelf" caused a big stink with plenty of parents and some dubious parenting advice from John Curley to keep the kids off the naughty list at Christmas. (AP image)

John Curley: Keep the fear of Santa in the kids at Christmas

He's making a list and checking it twice and a lot of parents are up in arms because Good Morning America anchor Lara Spencer almost blew the cover on a new tradition many are using to help keep kids on their best behavior before Christmas.

"Elf on the Shelf" has gained popularity over the last few years with parents telling their kids the toy or stuffed doll is watching them and reporting back to the North Pole at night. Magically, he reappears the following day somewhere else in the house.

But when Spencer unwittingly talked about it on the air the other day and let on that some parents might have something to do with it, plenty of families were watching. Parents were furious.

"This is what happens when you hire personalities like Lara Spencer instead of real journalists to do morning news show programs because she just could not figure it out," complained Tom Tangney on Seattle's Morning News.

Hardly a major controversy, but a big deal for many families nonetheless, trying to preserve the tradition. After hearing plenty about it, Spencer did her best to backtrack the following day.

"We want to make sure everybody knows we were talking to him yesterday before he had his magic. We had not yet adopted him or named him, which we have now," she said.

So now that they've named the GMA elf Gary and tried to restore the magic, everything's cool, right? Not quite.

"You never talk about Santa Claus or the elf," said host John Curley. "You just can't do it. It takes away the magic from the whole thing."

If you're going to talk about Santa or the elf, you better get it right and "keep the fear of God in the kids," Curley said.

He recalled the year his two kids weren't behaving. He begged, he pleaded, and he punished, but nothing seemed to work. Even threatening them with a lump of coal didn't turn things around.

"I'm like 'Guys, I'm serious. This is what's going to happen.'"

Desperate, he turned to a higher authority. One night before Christmas, there was a knock on the door. Curley told his kids to answer it and there stood Santa.

"Dad, Santa Claus, he's early," they exclaimed breathlessly. "Well, let him in," Curley said.

Santa told the kids he'd been watching, and things weren't looking so good. First, he sat Curley's daughter on his lap.

"Charlie, I have to tell you right now it's about a 50-50 chance you're not going to get anything," a visibly disappointed Santa told the little girl.

"Really?" she said worriedly as her eyes got as big as saucers.

Santa had a similar message for Curley's son. He then took them upstairs to inspect their rooms, and told them they'd better shape up, or else it would be a pretty bleak Christmas.

"I don't think Santa's doing this for everybody," Curley told them. "He must be very serious about what you're doing wrong."

Suffice it to say Santa's message got through loud and clear. From thereon, the kids were angels. The big guy with the beard delivered a bountiful holiday for both.

"The heck with Gary the Elf. Get the real man to show up. That'll straighten the kids out."

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com Reporter
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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