Whenever I see a Christmas photo like the one above, I always have to wonder: What the hell did the parents of these kids think was going to happen when they plopped them down on Santa's lap?
Parents sit around filling their kid's heads with all kinds of impressively fanciful information about Santa; how he lives in a castle at the North Pole, has a crew of toy-making elves, commands a team of magical flying reindeer and can see and monitor your behavior wherever you are.
Then they're puzzled and dismayed when the kid meets a mall Santa and has a meltdown.
Why should the parents expect any other reaction? As far as the kid's concerned he's sitting on the lap of a veritable god. Who wouldn't be intimidated by that? Most kids don't even know any adults aside from their parents and grandparents, and suddenly they're being held by an immortal entity who's a magician, Jesus and Gandalf all rolled into one.
Parents, if you're having trouble understanding your child's reaction to Jolly Ol' Saint Nick, try put yourself in their place. Imagine someone forces you to sit on the lap of a god, one who "sees you when you're sleeping" and "knows when you've been bad or good." Suddenly Christmas isn't so much fun anymore, is it?
If you do insist on taking your kid to see Santa, maybe you could kind of work up to it. Maybe just walk your kid past Santa, point him out and say you'll help him write and send an email. Or have your child walk up to Santa and formally introduce himself and shake hands if appropriate. If you do insist on placing your child on Santa's lap, do everyone a favor and give them a healthy, calming dose of cough syrup before you get to the mall. The general public will thank you for it.