The Great Santa Lie: What’s A Parent To Do?

Posted on December 17, 2012 by


With Christmas quickly approaching  I have been contemplating what we should tell our three year old daughter about Santa.  I know that I am totally over-thinking this and that I should just go with the flow but it is in my nature to question and challenge social norms and to replace them if they feel outdated or inappropriate.

I spent the last week talking to friends and family and reading blog posts about this very topic and I thought I would share a list of the popular reasons for both lying and telling the truth about Santa.  Next week I will discuss some of the options available to parents struggling with this question.

6  Reasons You Should Lie To Your Child About Santa

  1. Children love Santa.  You can’t argue with the fact that most children seem to really love Santa and get excited about the prospect of him coming to their house with a bag full of gifts.  Look at the wonder on their face on Christmas morning. Let them be kids and have their fun.  Why would you want to take that away from them?
  2. Everyone does it.  Santa has totally permeated American culture and you would be hard-pressed to find children that haven’t heard of Santa.  It is hard to break away from a cultural norm.  Santa is on our TVs, radios, and stories.  He is on our lawns and in our malls.  You cannot hide from Santa.
  3. Don’t ruin it for others.  If your kid knows the truth and tells children who still believe then you will have some very unhappy kids and parents on your hands.
  4. Learn to pretend.  Many people believe that propagating the Santa myth helps teach kids about imaginative and pretend play.  I don’t quite understand this since the children actually “believe” and it is the parents who are playing “pretend.”  Once a child finds out the truth and is let in on the secret then they get an opportunity to pretend with their younger siblings and friends.
  5. Keep them in line.  Many parents use Christmas as an elaborate scheme to get their children to behave well.  There is the whole Santa is watching whether you are naughty or nice and now with the addition of Elf on the Shelf, Santa has 24 hour surveillance of your children’s actions.
  6. Teach them to believe.  The experience of believing is magical for many people and the idea of not giving children that opportunity seems mean.

5 Reasons You Should Tell Your Child the Truth About Santa

  1. Avoid lying.  Our children rely on us to be their guides through this confusing world.  When they are born they are literally blank slates and every moment of their life they are learning and growing and trying to build a framework of the world around them.  Once they learn to speak they begin to ask you questions, endless questions.  Why, where, what, when, who?  I am sure you try to answer every one of their questions as truthfully as you can.  So why would you break that habit now to lie about Santa?

    “Call it a white lie, a harmless lie, a devious lie, whatever kind of lie you want. Assign whatever moral value to that lie you want. But if the parents are deliberately leading their children to believe something that is not true, they are lying.” Hubris

  2. Avoid confusion.  Are you trying to teach your child about God, Christ, Spirituality, or any other topic that leans heavily on belief and faith?  Think about how confusing it might be for a child to try to separate Santa from God?  In many ways Santa has been built up to be almost God-like and when the story comes crashing down what effect will that have on your child’s true faith?
  3. Avoid hurt feelings.  They are going to find out the truth one day and they may be deeply hurt.  I am sure that children experience the whole range of emotions from ambivalence to deeply scarred.  Why would you want to take the chance that your child will be one whose feelings are really hurt when they find out that they have been lied to and tricked over the years?  That they were a fool for not figuring it out sooner?
  4. Avoid the hype.  Christmas isn’t really about Santa.  While there are many interpretations about what it is really about there are some general themes that keep repeating.  You may believe that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ, or giving, or being with family, but I think you can agree that it isn’t all about Santa.  You can have all the wonderful parts of Christmas without lying about  Santa.
  5. Avoid the questions.  You do realize that there is going to be an endless series of questions don’t you?  And these are tough ones like, “How come some kids don’t get any presents on Christmas?” and “How come Santa didn’t get me the special toy I asked for even though I was so nice?”  By telling your child the truth about Santa you are letting yourself off the hook for coming up with clever answers to all those tough questions.

What’s a Parent To Do?

I was surprised to find that there is a wide continuum of how families approach Santa.  Next week I am going to write about some of the different examples I have read and heard about and touch on the approach that I am thinking about using.

Did I miss any good reasons on either side of the debate?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Posted in: Parenting