Should You Lie To Your Kids About Santa?

Should You Lie To Your Kids About Santa?

Many parents say Christmas is their favourite time of year.

Despite the extra stress, the expense and the inevitable meltdowns from over-hyped youngsters, Christmas still feels special.

We spend more time with our families and we get to throw ourselves into the Christmas traditions we loved so much as children.

Perhaps most importantly of all, we get to enjoy a little bit of magic thanks to Santa Claus.

Is It Ok To Lie To Your Kids About Santa?

It’s the age-old question, if the lie gives your kids a little bit of magic to enjoy, doesn’t that make it ok?

There are certain white lies all parents tell from time to time. Mummy and Daddy were just cuddling, for example. Or no, we have no biscuits in the house. Or wow, I’d love to watch another of your one-man shows.

The idea of Father Christmas is sold to kids by parents and advertisers alike, but is it a harmless lie for a little bit of magic or could it have more serious impacts on your relationship with your child?

After all, Santa isn’t just a little white lie, it’s a huge lie that most of the world is in on. It’s not an off-the-cuff remark said without much thought, it’s premeditated and it goes on for years.

Many parents use it as a way of bribing their children to behave well. Children are told Santa is always watching them and that only good children get presents.

Well, isn’t that a little creepy? Even strangers are in on the act, with shop assistants warning misbehaving children to behave in their store because Father Christmas is watching.

The Elf on a Shelf craze has added to this with many parents now welcoming Santa’s spies into their home for the full month of December.

Threats and bribes are not good parenting tools, they work in the short-term but fail to make long-term improvements to your child’s behaviour. Children test boundaries, that’s how they learn and how they establish what is and is not acceptable. By their very nature, children will misbehave sometimes.

It is absolutely impossible for a child to behave for an entire month, even with the threat of no presents from Santa looming. In many ways, the elf on a shelf craze simply sets children up to fail.

Some parents worry about what happens when their children are too old to believe. When the children realise they’ve been lied to for years and the parents they thought were trustworthy apparently aren’t. Is that damaging or is it just harmless fun?

Psychologist Christopher Boyle and social scientist Kathy McKay argue it is potentially damaging and urge parents to think twice before perpetuating the myth of Father Christmas.

In an essay published in the Lancet Psychiatry, they argue: “If they (parents) are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?”

For many children, discovering that Santa isn’t real can mark the end of childhood. All of a sudden, the magic is gone and they are firmly on the side of the grownups which isn’t where any child wants to be.

If Father Christmas was always presented as a story rather than truth, then would there be such a drastic shift for the child or would the magic of Christmas live on for longer?

Boyle and McKay believe this magic of Christmas provided by Santa is really for the parents, not the kids. Children can play for hours pretending to be fairies or superheroes without ever stopping to question whether the game is magical enough because of the lack of realism.

Children whose parents tell them Santa is just a story enjoy Christmas just as much as their deceived counterparts. Children have amazing imaginations and this natural gift can be harnessed without feeding them lies about a man who simply doesn’t exist.

Understandably, many parents see Father Christmas as a much-loved Christmas tradition that reminds them of their own childhood. As a society, we don’t drop traditions easily, no matter how out of date they may seem to others.

Another problem for modern parents is the fear of their child being the only child in on the truth. Will they stick out at school for failing to believe? Will they reveal to the truth to the other kids and make you the most-hated parent at the school gates?

What do you think, how do your family deal with the myth of Father Christmas?

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Fiona Peacock CONTRIBUTOR

Fiona Peacock is a writer, researcher and lover of all things to do with pregnancy, birth and motherhood (apart from the lack of sleep). She is a home birth advocate, passionate about gentle parenting and is also really tired.


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