General Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Do you feel it's a teacher's place to tell a classroom of 3rd graders that Santa and the Easter Bunny aren't real?

Asked by Dutchess_III (26666 points ) May 23rd, 2012

This happened to my grand daughter. Her music teacher told them. My grand daughter was really upset. She asked her mom if it was true, and Mom, of course, had to say “Yes. It’s true.”

A whole bunch of a child’s magic just got ripped out of her life for no reason.

If a friend tells a child, or the parents tell their child, that’s one thing. But for a teacher to announce it to an entire class of small kids is a whole different game, in my opinion.

Please keep the discussion to what teachers should and should not be allowed to discuss in a classroom and not turn this into a debate of whether it’s right or for parents to allow a child to believe in Santa.

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119 Answers

mangeons's avatar

Of course it’s not the teacher’s place! It’s not up to them how the child is raised, and if they are raised to believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny (as many kids are) then it’s none of their business. It’s not their place to decide when it’s time for kids to stop believing, and I think that’s terrible that any teacher would do that. Teachers are there to teach kids, not crush their beliefs. They don’t have to encourage the belief, but that doesn’t mean they should ruin it for kids!

Dutchess_III's avatar

@mangeons “They don’t have to encourage the belief, but that doesn’t mean they should ruin it for kids!” Very well said. Exactly my thoughts.

woodcutter's avatar

I would hope they would dodge those topics in school just to stay out of trouble. It is a bit of honest education though. Just don’t get them started about Christ.

nikipedia's avatar

We had a long discussion about this around Christmas.

I am probably in the minority but I just don’t see any problem with it. Expecting other people to perpetuate a lie, even a harmless one, is absurd to me.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I feel like this is one of those perpetual questions that gets asked all the time. I have no idea how the teacher said it and whether the ‘magic’ really got ripped out of your granddaughter. As a parent, when I’m upset with something a teacher says, I let them know so that’s what needs to happen. For example, any normative teachings of gender or race or when they make my kid color in a Tee-pee for ‘Native-American representation’ or the face of MLK for ‘Black history month’...there are SO many things I find deeply problematic…there are so many things I have to unteach my child…I guess if you think Santa and the Bunny being real is fundamental to her understanding of the world, you’d do the same – unteach.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@woodcutter So if you have a teacher who is a fundamental Christian, to them it would be a bit of “honest education” to tell the kids that they have to believe in God.

@nikipedia It isn’t a teacher’s place to instruct children on any type of belief, whether it’s religion or magic. Not. Their. Place.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Not quite understanding you. Are you saying that after the child has been told, the parent should insist that the teacher is wrong and that Santa IS real?

nikipedia's avatar

@Dutchess_III, I think it’s appropriate for a teacher to address issues that are factually true or untrue.

woodcutter's avatar

@Dutchess_III I’m assuming many in academia are left leaning and would love to jump all over that one but I couldn’t imagine any of them daring to.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Any subject, @nikipedia? As long as it is factually true?

mangeons's avatar

@nikipedia But it is a parenting decision whether to raise your child believing in Santa or the Easter Bunny, and I don’t really think it’s a teacher’s place to interfere with parenting decisions, unless they are doing harm, obviously. It’s a fun tradition that makes the holidays extra special for kids, why should a teacher be able to take away the enjoyment of a child?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dutchess_III Well, if that’s what the parent has been telling the child, why not…it’s not like if I tell your kid god’s not real, you’ll just agree…you’ll say ‘no, that bitch is crazy, god is totally real and she’s going to hell.’...so something like that, in your own words and about santa.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t think any parents ever come out and insist that Santa is real if the child asks them directly. The children just grow up with the myth and the parent just doesn’t dissuade them of it. The parent takes part in creating the magic for the kids. But to flat out tell your child something is definitely real when it isn’t is a different thing.

mangeons's avatar

@Dutchess_III I agree, it’s one thing to teach your child about Santa, but a whole other thing entirely to insist that he’s real even if the child has already been told that he is not real.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dutchess_III I feel like there isn’t a clear line. When you say the parent takes part in creating the magic for the kids, what they’re doing is flat telling them it’s real when it isn’t or does it just make you feel better to keep putting the term magic everywhere?

nikipedia's avatar

@Dutchess_III, certainly it’s preferable for sensitive or taboo topics to be handled differently. With the exception of those, though, I don’t see any reason not to treat true facts as true facts.

@mangeons, I don’t think I’m going to change anyone’s mind here, but for what it’s worth, I think if parents make a decision to lie to their children (again, even harmlessly) it’s unreasonable to expect other people to perpetuate that lie. Parents aren’t masters of the universe, no matter how much they like to pretend.

woodcutter's avatar

With all the media available to kids ,really young kids with I -phones and internet it seems surprising that teachers have near the influence on small kids they did even 10 years ago…If they had much then.

mangeons's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I think there’s a difference between teaching your kids a fun legend to celebrate during the holidays and actively trying to convince your child it’s true. If your kid already knows, then what’s the point of trying to convince them otherwise? It’s one thing to teach them about a fun tradition, and another thing entirely to try to force them to believe it.

@nikipedia You keep referring to it as lying to make it seem more malicious. Technically, sure, it’s a lie. But you’re making it out to be worse than it is, it is in fact harmless and just a fun thing for kids. I’m glad that my parents taught me to believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy when I was a kid, because it’s the only time when you can believe in something truly magical and fun. Kids figure out that it isn’t real on their own, and I don’t know anyone who was hurt or felt betrayed because of the “lie” their parents told them. But that’s beside the point. No one’s asking the teacher to encourage the belief, or even agree with it. But just because they have different beliefs than the parent doesn’t mean they can override the decisions that the parent made about their own child. If they don’t agree with it, then they should keep their mouth shut, not ruin it for kids who want to believe. Do you run around telling kids who go to visit Santa at the mall during Christmas time that he’s not real? Do you tell a child who is pretending to have superpowers, “You know, you don’t have superpowers. You’re just a normal kid. Superheroes aren’t real. Magic isn’t real.” Why would you want to ruin a child’s happiness just because you don’t believe in that particular practice? That’s just mean-spirited.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Well, I’ll tell you….in response to a thread like this one on a different site, I asked my daughter, now 26, why she didn’t let me know when she came to the realization that the Easter Bunny wasn’t real. Why she let me go ahead and hide the eggs for a couple more years (keep in mind her brother is 2 years younger than her.) She said, “Because if I did we couldn’t play the game any more. All the magic would be gone and we didn’t want it to end.”
Let them be kids, with their magical kid powers and magical kid imaginations that adults lost so long ago.

@mangeons “But just because they have different beliefs than the parent doesn’t mean they can override the decisions that the parent made about their own child” That’s exactly right.

nikipedia's avatar

@mangeons, I’m using the word lie to distinguish between something that is factually true vs. factually untrue. Sometimes beliefs are based on facts (e.g., I believe the sun will come up tomorrow) and some beliefs are based on opinions (e.g., I believe the Beatles were better than the Rolling Stones).

Things in the second category, I agree, teachers can’t really make a ruling on and should more or less keep to themselves. But things in the first category are fair game.

Sometimes it’s ambiguous which category something is in, which I think requires more discussion. But Santa Claus is unambiguously not a real entity. To me, that is the end of the discussion.

mangeons's avatar

@nikipedia Everyone here knows that Santa is decidedly not real. But that’s not the point. It’s not the teacher’s place to ruin a kid’s happiness just because they are mean-spirited. What do you gain by ruining that for a kid? The one chance that they have to believe in something magical? Math, language arts, science, social studies, etc. are in the curriculum and teachers are meant to teach them. Personal beliefs are not found in the school curriculum, so a teacher should have no reason to attempt to “enlighten” their students for no reason other than to shatter the child’s beliefs. There’s no reason to make it out to be something worse than it is.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dutchess_III I do let them be kids. When you let them be kids, they come up with better things than Santa, that’s for sure. Somehow without santa and the easter bunny, my kids are awesome and happy. I really think you lose if you think magic is as easy or as bounded as santa and the easter bunny – there are so many ways my kids show me magic that I’d never think to teach.

flo's avatar

In case this was not asked and answered already, did the teacher make a point of telling the class that it is all a lie or was she just answering a question by a student who was already told by his parents? “Teacher, do you believe in Santa…my parents don’t believe….”

nikipedia's avatar

@mangeons, that’s a very fair point, but I want to mention that you are changing the parameters of the argument a bit. If your objection is that the truth is painful to the students, I would argue that there are many truths that are painful (and really, this pain could have been avoided altogether by the parents not telling the lie in the first place).

And as a larger point, I think teaching children to endorse magical thinking sets them up for problems with reasoning later in life. Not every kid who is told Santa is real is incapable of logical thinking, for sure—but the more you teach kids that the world is magical and unknowable, the more likely they are to believe that. We have a huge problem in this country with people not understanding the most basic fundamentals of cause and effect, and no doubt being told stories like this as a young child sets them up for that.

And belief in untrue magical things is not necessary to a sense of wonder, I think. The real world is so much better than anything we could make up. To quote Douglas Adams, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

mangeons's avatar

@nikipedia My objection is not just that the truth is painful. My objection is that you are unnecessarily ruining a fun and magical time for children. Eventually, they will figure out that it is not true, in their own time. So why the need to end that great period of a child’s life early and abruptly? I don’t know anyone that has had any logic or reasoning problems because of believing in Santa. A childhood fairytale isn’t what makes people incapable of logical thinking, so that does not seem like a valid argument at all.

While it isn’t necessary to believe in magical things, it certainly makes things more fun and enjoyable as a child. It’s not like children spend every waking moment thinking about magical beings, they play outside and experience the world just like any kid that doesn’t believe in Santa, they just have a fun extra belief during the holidays. It’s not doing any harm, so why would it need to be stopped?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@flo In that instance I would say, “You need to talk to your parents.” It is never a teacher’s place to give an opinion on anything to students. They can’t tell kids that they think racism is OK, and that student’s should be integrated, even if that’s what they believe. They can’t tell the students that, in their opinion, it’s perfectly fine to have sex before marriage. Those issues need to be referred back to their parents.

But, apparently, in this case, the teacher was doing some comparison thing. Not sure what it was. But she said, something like, “For instance, when you’re little you believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny, but when you get older, you know that they aren’t real.” (It might be pointed out at this point that she is the music teacher for the whole district. She teaches K-12. But she was addressing just the 3rd graders in my grand daughter’s classroom.)

flo's avatar

@Dutchess_III I agree, I was just curious as to how it came up in the first place.

nikipedia's avatar

@Dutchess_III, whether Santa Claus is real or not is simply not a matter of opinion.

AmWiser's avatar

I think in today’s world parents must be ready/prepared for whatever info their child/ren encounter. Be ready/prepared to explain the whys and wherefor’s.Just because you want them to learn later rather than sooner, unfortunately it’s almost impossible for a parent to be the source of all first hand information that a child receives.
Also what prompted the teacher to broach this subject?

ragingloli's avatar

The earlier children learn not to buy claims that have insufficient evidence, the better.
Skepticism and critical thinking skills should be taught from kindergarten.
Arguments like “oh noes, it shatters their worldview” are not valid when it comes to teaching a child that evolution is a fact and that the earth is not 6000 years old, and they are not valid either when it comes to satan claus.

PhiNotPi's avatar

There have been hundreds of generations of kids who had a perfectly healthy childhood without believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. When choosing to lead their child into believing in Santa Claus, the parents should be completely aware that there will be a time and a place when their child learns that they have been misled for a big chunk of their childhood. I don’t really believe that they should blame someone for doing something (revealing the nonexistance) that they know must happen anyway.

However, this doesn’t mean that I think that it is a bad thing to let your child believe in Santa Claus. I think that it is perfectly ok to do so, as long as the parents are willing to accept any sort of negative consequences.

mangeons's avatar

@AmWiser I agree that parents should be prepared for whatever information their children might encounter, and it’s one thing if it’s an accident or they just came across it. That’s fine. I just think it’s wrong for a teacher to purposely ruin that for someone when they have to reason to.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@AmWiser See my link above as to why she broached the subject.

I also agree that parents need to be prepared to handle unexpected information that may be given to their kids, by their friends, or whomever. But for a teacher to come out with that, for no real reason, was just cruel.

marinelife's avatar

Certainly not.

bkcunningham's avatar

How did we ever get as far as we’ve gotten raising children without all this “enlightened” and critical thinking? Such horse shit. My 3 year old granddaughter thinks she has pixie dust in her pocket and when we slap our hands on our thighs we take off in a spaceship to get away from an erupting volcano. How horrible of me to entertain her with such fantasies.

Nimis's avatar

Adults like to bicker about truth vs belief. But it’s your kid’s imagination that’s magical.

My kid knows that the Easter Bunny or Santa isn’t real. But that doesn’t mean that her face doesn’t light up on Christmas. Or that she isn’t a superhero, riding on a talking unicorn, to a planet made of cake.

Come on, guys. Give the munchkins some credit.

SpatzieLover's avatar

No. And this is yet another example of why we chose to homeschool. We do not need a non-relative trying to parent our child.

@bkcunningham My son (almost 7) believes fairies come to the yard. I’m hoping that lasts a little longer.

Sunny2's avatar

Third graders are mostly 8 years old. The word has usually gotten around by then. If asked a direct question, the teacher should answer it. What do you think the answer should be? “Ask your mommy and daddy?” or “What do you think?” Imagine the ribbing a child who is still a believer would get.

bkcunningham's avatar

Such sweet memories, @SpatzieLover. Hold them close and treasure them.

AmWiser's avatar

@Dutchess_III This happened to my grand daughter. Her music teacher told them. I’m just wondering how the subject was initiated. By the teacher or the students. I understand it still doesn’t make it right, but….

Dutchess_III's avatar

@nimis….They do know. Deep inside, they do know. But they WANT it to be real. It just reminds me of a time when my grandson, Ryan, was 5. He was forever dressed up as a Super Hero of some kind.
His mom found a rock at my house and the rock had some moss on it. She left it here for the moment, thinking it was cool and she wanted to take it home. Well, Ryan pulled the moss off. He wasn’t being deliberately “bad,” he didn’t realize his mom had claimed the rock. It really wasn’t that big of a deal, but his Uncle Chris, who was 12 at the time, carelessly said, “Ooooo! You’re going to be in big trouble now! That was your mamma’s rock!” just kind of giving the kid a hard time, not realizing how utterly seriously Ryan would take it (He loved Ryan. He would never deliberately hurt him…or anyone else.)

Well, about 15 minutes later I finally realized something was really wrong with Ryan, so I called him over and asked him what was wrong. He said he’d pulled the moss off of his mom’s rock and didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to. He was just devastated. He said, “I tried to put it back on, but I couldn’t.”
My heart started aching…and then he started pulling off his super hero cape and sword and what not and said, so, so sadly, so tiredly, “I’m not a super hero. I’m just Ryan.” My heart just broke into a million pieces. I pulled him in my lap and held him for a while. I said, “You ever do something because it seems like a cool thing to do, and then you find out it was the wrong thing to do?”
He nodded yes, tears silently dripping down his face.
I said, “I’ve done that too.”
He looked up at me with tearful amazement, a glimmer of hope in his eyes, and said, “You have?”
I said, “Yes. We all have. That’s how we learn. That moss felt cool when you pulled it off, didn’t it. I would have done the same thing! You didn’t know it was your mom’s. ”
We got through it, but those defeated words, “I’m not a super hero. I’m just Ryan,” will echo in my mind forever. I want to cry just thinking about it. They know. They WANT to believe.

@AmWiser that is really beside the point. There are issues that need to be referred back to the parents if they come up. If a kid had asked the teacher (the music teacher no less) where babies come from, that needs to be referred back to the parents. Right or wrong, there are some things that are firmly in the parent’s court, and no one elses.

bkcunningham's avatar

What a lesson, @Dutchess_III. You made my eyes get all blurry and wet from hundreds of miles away. That is magic.

bewailknot's avatar

Not the teacher’s place to do this. I would not be surprised if the teacher thought the kids already knew the truth. I would expect 3rd graders to know.

gorillapaws's avatar

The biggest downside I see is that it’s denying the children one of the most transformative skeptical experiences they will likely have ever had in their lives up to that point. It’s a valuable lesson for people to grow up questioning the truth of what’s been told to them and to approach large, unrealistic claims with a skeptical mindset of doubt, logic, and evidence. I believe that this is most important for children to reason out for themselves, and denying them such an opportunity is doing them an intellectual disservice.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@gorillapaws I don’t have any problem questioning the truth of what I’ve been told if it rings false or questionable to me. Nor do my sisters or my children.

@bewailknot Do you have children?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bkcunningham I know…. :( I’m getting teary eyed remembering it.

josie's avatar

If I were a school teacher, I would stay out of that kind of stuff.
But it could be worse! Look at all the news stories about teachers, male and female, screwing their young students. Pick your poison I guess.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s in an entirely different stratosphere, @josie.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes. Having sex with a willing 17 year old, or inappropriately touching an willing or unwilling 16 year old, is not the same thing as telling a 3rd grader there is no such thing as Santa Claus. They aren’t even in the same league.

Rarebear's avatar

For me it’s a crime to tell a kid that the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are real. That’s called lying.

bewailknot's avatar

@Dutchess_III I have children and grandchildren including a toddler and kindergartner . I have never known a 3rd grader who still believed, they seem to find out from other kids by K or first grade. My parents’ rule was if you didn’t believe in the Easter Bunny you didn’t get an Easter basket – so we claimed to believe until we grew up and moved out.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Considering this came from the music teacher, I have an even bigger issue with it. Couldn’t she have just stuck with the music lesson?

bewailknot's avatar

@Rarebear I agree, and I don’t like the lies. I was devastated when I learned at 6 years old that people had been lying to me. I promised myself I wouldn’t lie like that to my kids, but everyone else in the family & neighborhood took care of it and my kids were believers.

jrpowell's avatar

Third graders ask a lot of question. Most of them simply being ”Why?”.

You can only bullshit for so long with them. I doubt outing the Easter Bunny was in the lesson plan that day.

And when is it ok to say Santa isn’t real? 5, 10, 20 years old. Eventually you have to assume people know. The third grade seems reasonable.

The funny part is it seems unproductive to lie to your kids about Santa (which they will find out is bullshit) when you drag them to church on Sunday to believe in another magic man in the sky. One is bullshit, I would assume the other one is too if I was the kid.

mangeons's avatar

@johnpowell I agree that it might be reasonable to assume that third graders would know the truth, and that’s fine. If it’s accidental, that’s one thing. I’m just saying that it’s not the teacher’s place to purposely and knowingly do it, whether they agree with the “lie” or not.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@johnpowell It’s OK to tell them when they come straight out and ask you. In fact, it would be wrong not to tell them the “truth” when they come straight out and ask.
Yes, 2rd graders have a lot of questions, but the teacher is not required to answer all of them, especially when they are moving perilously close to the parent’s domain.

@Rarebear I have to agree. To literally say, “Santa Claus is real,” would be a lie. But for them to just gradually grow into “learning” about him and all the cool things he does, and not dissuading, them isn’t a lie. It is a harmless fantasy. I have NEVER heard anyone say they felt like their parents “lied” to them about Santa.

Rarebear's avatar

Well, I don’t think it’s a harmless fantasy. I think that it is important to start teaching critical thinking to kids at a young age.

flo's avatar

Do 3rd graders learn by googling by the way?

flo's avatar

…anyway that doesn’t change anything, just like I don’t want a theist teacher to push religion on kids I don’t want the athesit teacher to push atheism either.

Leanne1986's avatar

I don’t believe it is a teacher’s place. A teacher should have ways of getting round an issue like this one way or another without stepping on the parent’s toes (I believe that this is one of those issues that, regardless of your beliefs, is the parent’s prerogative.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Rarebear Ach! I did it myself! I allowed myself to get into a debate about whether it’s OK for kids to believe in fairy tales for a while! So, those thoughts aside, do you think the teacher was out of line in presenting this information to the children?

dontmindme's avatar

No, it is not the teachers place to tell the young children.

I have a child entering the 3rd grade who still believes in Santa, and I would say that more than half of the 2nd and 3rd grade students at this grade school still believes. I was 10 when I figured it out for myself who Santa really was. A teacher shouldn’t assume that most 3rd graders don’t believe.

Rarebear's avatar

@Dutchess_III I think the teacher is a hero.

mangeons's avatar

@Rarebear What makes you think that? Was it the part where the teacher ruined a perfectly harmless, fun tradition for third graders or the part where they thought they knew better than the kids’ parents do? ~

Dutchess_III's avatar

What if the teacher told the kids that there definitely IS a God @Rarebear? Many people would think she was a “hero” for correcting a “lie” that you’ve been telling her since she was a baby.

Rarebear's avatar

@mangeons I don’t think it’s a harmless and fun tradition. I think that teaching kids that there are fantasy creatures and then later busting their bubbles is cruel.

@Dutchess_III Well, besides the fact the teacher would be violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, she’d be wrong.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Rarebear Nobody “busts their bubbles.” Nobody busted my bubble. You get to an age where you gradually figure it out on your own. My kids figured it out that way too. No hard feelings. It’s just called growing up. And they miss it. They miss the fun and the fantasy and the “magic.”

Rarebear's avatar

@Dutchess_III I think there is plenty of wonder and “magic” in the real world without resorting to fantasy crutches.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree with that. But the other doesn’t hurt a thing. IMO.

mangeons's avatar

@Rarebear Maybe I’m just speaking for myself, but I don’t recall my bubble ever being “burst.” I just eventually figured out the truth on my own, and that was that. I wasn’t crushed that my parents “lied” to me, or devastated to find out they weren’t real. I was perfectly fine with it. I don’t think I know anyone who was really upset to find out that Santa wasn’t real, unless the truth was rudely revealed before they were ready to stop believing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My oldest daughter, who is 6 and 8 years older than her brother and sister, came to me with the Santa Claus question when she was 9. I told her he wasn’t real. Then I asked her if she thought I should tell the “little kids,” who were 3 and 2 at the time. She thought about it and said, “No. Let them believe for a while. It’s fun.”

At any rate, the QUESTION is, basically, does a 3rd party have the right to come in and come out with a pronouncement like that, out of the blue, to other people’s children?

gorillapaws's avatar

I think it would be valuable to see if there was a statistically significant correlation between not being deceived into believing in imaginary/magical beings and the ability to rationally disbelieve other imaginary/magical beings later in life such as the paranormal, medical pseudoscientific practices, or highly implausible conspiracy theories.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I have no problem rationally disbelieving imaginary/magical beings, and paranormal, medical pseudoscientific practices, or highly implausible conspiracy theories. As an adult, my best friends call me “Spock.”

Of all the adults I know who “believed” in Santa, not a single one is a hallucinatory, paranoid idiot.

bkcunningham's avatar

@gorillapaws or @Rarebear, your parents didn’t play into the Santa Clause and Christmas stories? Do you know why they didn’t?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, @Rarebear is Jewish. Don’t know about @gorillapaws.

jca's avatar

If I tell my child that there is a Santa Claus, that’s between me and my child and not up to a teacher to tell her otherwise. It’s traditional, it’s not unheard of and it’s a bit different than “fantasy beings.”

nikipedia's avatar

@gorillapaws, I actually looked for a study (that would tell us anything at all about Santa Claus beliefs) when this thread was new. I didn’t find much of interest, but one reported that “level of causal reasoning increased with age and was related to decline in belief in Santa.” Much more interesting to me was the finding that: “Children reported predominantly positive reactions on learning the truth. Parents, however, described themselves as predominantly sad in reaction to their child’s discovery.”

It makes me wonder if Santa Claus is really for kids at all, or if it’s a chance for adults to try to engage in some kind of vicarious fantasy belief.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, from experience @nikipedia, parents feel sad because they see a marching on of life. They see their kids going through the same realizations that transition them from children into young people, and you lose a little something every time. You gain something too, but…you lose an innocence that you know your kids can never have again. It’s kind of like when you tell your 10 year old that you and her father are getting a divorce. And it goes on, and on. When parents see their kids’ joy at having their first babies, there is a joy to match theirs, and a sadness and heartbreak born of experience. The heartbreak that you know is going to come, and that you certainly aren’t going to discuss with your children when they have their new babies.

jca's avatar

@nikipedia: I think if children got absolutely nothing out of the Santa thing, then I would say yes, it’s just for the parents to live vicariously. However, the kids do get a lot of enjoyment ouf of the Santa thing, so it’s for the kids, too. I think for the adults, it’s fun to perpetuate the belief in Santa, and seeing the wonderment and happiness in the kids when they see Santa and believe in it. It adds a whole new dimension to Christmas.

I remember as a child, being so excited for Christmas to come, and having a hard time falling asleep on Christmas eve because it was magical, truly, that Santa would be coming in the night. I remember crossing the hallway in the middle of the night, and letting myself look toward the Christmas tree. The tree was backlit by the streetlight, and the light was reflected in the wrapping paper. It was really incredible that Santa came and did that and was doing it all over the world in one night, and of course, I wanted my child to have the same experience.

Rarebear's avatar

What I don’t understand is why is it so important for parents to teach their kids that an imaginary strange fat man comes through the chimney and leaves stuff. To me, as an atheist Jew, that’s just creepy. Why can’t the presents be from family, and why can’t the holiday just be about family and not about breaking and entering.

gorillapaws's avatar

@bkcunningham I grew up doing the Santa thing. I enjoyed it as a kid, but as @Rarebear points out, I think it would also be fun (maybe even more) if gift-giving was about loving your family members, and the genuine warmth that comes with that. I’m not saying it’s good or bad one way or the other (I simply haven’t seen the data). I can appreciate both sides of the discussion. I do think there is probably significant value in reasoning out the lie for oneself however (as I posted earlier).

@nikipedia thanks for the link, that’s pretty interesting.

@Dutchess_III my point wasn’t that exposure to the Santa myth leads to irrational thinking as an adult, but that absence of exposure might lead to an accelerated increase in rational thinking. It may sound like they’re the same thing, but they’re not.

Rarebear's avatar

What @gorillapaws says, especially the comment to Dutchess—much more eloquently and politely than I did. I agree completely.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Absence of exposure” to what @gorillapaws?

@Rarebear Anything can be made to sound creepy. Circumcision used to be a tenant of Judaism. It’s freaky that they’d want to cut off a part of a baby boy’s penis as part of a religious rite. I’m sure there are other customs in the religion, in ANY religion, that people could paint as freaky. Besides, Santa eats at Subway now. He’s lost a lot of weight!

gorillapaws's avatar

@Dutchess_III Absence of exposure to a delusion perpetuated by the the entire adult world against you. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen the Matrix, but it is a bit like that, where you realize that EVERYONE has been lying to you your whole life about something. I just wonder if never being exposed to magical thinking will make it harder to be taken in by it later in life. This isn’t to say that there isn’t room for imagination, fantasy and make-believe, but these things are always presented for what they truly are.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m kind of beginning to understand what you’re saying. Pretty much the whole world has been insane and at some point you realize that, and realize that you alone, in the world, are sane, and realize it in the face of everyone telling you that YOU are the insane one? Interesting concept.

When I was at K-State I signed up for a psychology experiment. I was thrilled when I was “accepted.” I realize now that probably every single person who signed up for it was accepted, because who ever signed up was the guinea pig unawares.. They put me in a room with six other people. I didn’t realize it, but I was the only person in the room who wasn’t “in on it.” I don’t remember what the lead up was, but it surely included the insinuation that we were all volunteers and only the one person in the room was conducting the experiment. They did some stuff, liked passed around pictures of shapes and asked each person to describe the shape. All were in agreement that it was a triangle, or whatever. Then the “tester” passed around a piece of green paper, and each person proclaimed it as blue. They started directly to my left, of course, so that by the time it got to me six people had declared that the green paper was blue. I had no idea I was being duped. My eyes kept getting wider and wider, wondering if I’d been dropped down a rabbit hole. I was concerned I was in the company of insane people. It really got to me. I admit, I looked at it for a couple seconds longer than I normally would, and looked around at all the impassive faces, and then said, “You all are NUTS! It’s green!

At that point they all laughed and clued me in. Turns out that many, in fact MOST, people refused to buck the majority and would, actually, agree that the paper was blue when their sense were screaming that it was green.

Does that bit of an experiment help to answer your questions a little bit, @gorillapaws?

flo's avatar

All of you who are adamantly against telling them that Santa is not real, do you fight against Bratz dolls and the like, and Toddlers and Tiarra “parents”?

flo's avatar

Toddlers and Tiarra “parents” are actually property owners of their own children. They use them as money making machines. Now what is more harmfull?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t think it’s quite the same thing @flo

Rarebear's avatar

By the way, I think circumcisions are creepy also.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Dutchess_III Yes, I think you’re more-or-less coming from the same place as the question I was asking. I think the only real way to answer it though would be through a well-designed study.

bkcunningham's avatar

Did you ever play hide-and-seek with a baby? You cover their eyes and say “boo!” They crack up. They get a little older and they can close their eyes and think you’ve disappeared. Or how about hid-and-seek with a young child? They hide in obvious place and you still spend a few extra minutes saying their name loudly and wondering out loud where they could possibly be hiding.

@gorillapaws, this is another example of something, like you said, “I do think there is probably significant value in reasoning out the lie for oneself however.” I agree with you on that one. It is called growing up and learning. It is playing with your children and using your imagination and carrying on a harmless tradition like giving gifts at birthdays, planning a surprise for another person or staying up until the stroke of midnight to ring in the New Year.

I think the if people would be honest, the thing about Santa that bothers them is the relationship they think it has with what is considered a Christian holiday. It isn’t so much about tricking or fooling children.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@gorillapaws I’ve been thinking about that! I wonder if I would get any results if I contacted a college and suggested a study like that, and have them include whether or not they believed in Santa on the “application” form.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bkcunningham I really don’t think those who disagree with allowing Santa to “exist” disagree because it’s a Christian thing. I think they really, honestly, think that we’re “lying” to our children. They can’t separate the fantasy of Santa from a parent saying, “I’ll pick you up next weekend and we’ll go to the zoo!” knowing full well he or she isn’t going to—and does this over and over again. There is no difference. They feel both are equally “harmful.”

bkcunningham's avatar

Who said you can’t lie to your kids? I missed that rule. When my children were very young, my husband and I would save all year to go to Myrtle Beach, SC, for a ten day vacation. We stayed at my parents house and still struggled to not go in debt for anything and have a nice vacation for everyone.

We played on the beach and at the pool and had a great time for little to no cost, but there were certain must do things while you were there too. There was a really nice amusement park with a water park that was less than one-half the price of a big waterpark “everyone” went to while in Myrtle Beach. For years, my children thought they were going to Myrtle Waves when in fact they were going to the smaller, more affordable park. Until…one day… on the way into Myrtle Beach there was a bill flashing billboard for some addition to Myrtle Waves. My daughter could read by this time and said, “Hey, we haven’t been going to Myrtle Waves!” I acted shocked, “What? What are you talking about? You mean that isn’t the place where everyone from school talks about going? You are kidding me? Are you sure?”

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bkcunningham WHY in the world did you feel the need to lie to them about it? IMO, that is a genuine, harmful, faith shaking lie. I mean….why even do that?

bkcunningham's avatar

So we didn’t have to hear them crying about not getting to go to Myrtle Waves. We didn’t exactly lie, we just swayed them to believe the water park we took them to was the “good one.” At first, they were too little to understand or care. The deceit only lasted a couple of years. I think it is funny. So do the children who are grown now. I had nieces and nephews who they played with and saw on a regular basis who DID go to Myrtle Waves and believe me, they would have rubbed it in on my kids like salt on a wound. Kids can be mean.

mangeons's avatar

@bkcunningham I actually see that as far different from telling a kid that Santa exists, that is a flat out lie and I wouldn’t do something like that to my kids. I understand that you didn’t want them to be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean you should lie to them about it.

Rarebear's avatar

I’ve never lied to my daughter, ever. That’s one hard and fast rule in our house is that we always tell the truth, no matter how hard it is.

(On a somewhat tangential note, I never let her win at anything either. When she beats me she beats me fair and square. She’s on a swim team now and she beat me at a 25 yard freestyle sprint and was quite proud of herself. She can also beat me at tetherball, unless I cheat of course.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

She can’t beat me at tetherball! Or Foosball! I guarantee it! Did you let her “win” at things when she was smaller?

@mangeons I agree with you that it isn’t the same thing at all. I’d never make up a story or a lie to tell the kids for my own convenience, so I wouldn’t have to “listen to them cry.”

flo's avatar

@Dutchess_III , Toddlers and Tiarra way way more harmful, just ask the pedophiles themselves. Incredible that it can even exist in America. And that is my point. I wasn’t comparing them. I was just trying to mentioning something to fight against. Children, even at a young age, realize that they weren’t being led to believe that Santa is real, out of meanness.

mangeons's avatar

@flo I don’t exactly understand the point you’re trying to make. What does Toddlers and Tiaras or pedophiles have to do with this question…?

flo's avatar

@mangeons I don’t know how else to put it. I will think about it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, @mangeons I think to say that there are things that we mislead our children in that are actually dangerously harmful, and Santa is NOT one of them.

ragingloli's avatar

“I think to say that there are things that we mislead our children in that are actually dangerously harmful, and Santa is NOT one of them.”
I think that believing something that is not true is the harm itself.

flo's avatar

The pedophiles must be thinking “Are these parents out of their minds? Don’t they know they are enboldening us?” “How do the authorities sit back and allow this????” They must be baffled but happy.

flo's avatar

@ragingloli I think @Dutchess_III‘s ”that there are things that we mislead our children” may have meant that the children themselves are being led to believe that putting your value on your looks, is the most important thing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@flo That kind of thing really is a concern. Maybe you should post a question about it. I happen to agree with you.

flo's avatar

@Dutchess_III In fact did, a while ago. I’ll find it.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Rarebear, you never ever allowed her to win at a game, even when she was a little bitty thing? I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what that teaches a child. Realistically, unless you are physically or mentally handicapped, that would mean you have won at every game you’ve played with your child for, what the first 10 or more years of their lives? Come on now.

Rarebear's avatar

@bkcunningham I never, ever allowed her to win at a game. Ever. I would often play easy, but I’d never let her win. (Clear enough?)

We’d play games appropriate for her level. It’s not like I was playing chess with her when she was 5. We were playing “Sorry” and “Chutes and Ladders.”

What it teaches her is that when she finally did win, she’d win by her own doing—not by mine. We still play age-appropriate games, and she wins about half the time. And as I mentioned above, she can kick my ass in a swimming pool and in tetherball.

bkcunningham's avatar

You kick ass at Candy Land. Clear enough.

mattbrowne's avatar

The mom of your granddaughter could have said, “Santa Claus was real and his idea lives on even today. This is why children find presents in their socks.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hi Matt! Yes, that would have been a good thing to say, but again, the kids are asking about a literal person, not an idea. She could have said that, if she thought of it, and Brande would probably have come back and said, “But is he real?”

mattbrowne's avatar

Hi there, I took an extended Fluther break. Santa was a literal person, alive in the past. The idea lives on in the present. So is he real? Most likely, yes. Children participate in plays showing George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Were they real. Yes, they were. Their ideas live on too.

jca's avatar

And to add to what @mattbrowne said, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson can be about as imaginary as anything to a child, because they’re in the past, therefore, just concepts, whereas Santa is not only in shopping malls and public places, but leaves them somethin tangible (presents under the tree) which, to a child, would be proof that Santa is real.

ragingloli's avatar

Saint Nicholas =/= Santa Claus

Dutchess_III's avatar

Not just in Malls, either, @jca. In 1987 I saw him at the gas station in a Pinto!

mattbrowne's avatar

The figure of Santa Claus was inspired by Nikolaos of Myra, a historic 4th-century Greek bishop of Lycia (modern-day Turkey).

“He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas.” (Source: Wikipedia)

One cannot blame Nikolaos of Myra for the excesses of modern commerce. Anything of value can be distorted.

I support a little a bit of childhood magic which is really wonderful for small children. When they are old enough to understand the definitions terms like ‘symbol’ and ‘idea’ and ‘inspiration’ and ‘metaphor’ they are ready to be told about Nikolaos of Myra, and fertility symbols such as Easter bunnies, Jesus walking on water, and the real meaning of mythical beings such as angels. That’s what we did with our children. That’s what my parents did with me. It was probably around 3rd grade. I’m still very fond of my childhood memories before I was able to understand the term symbol. I loved this little magic. And I don’t think it did any permanent damage to my brain.

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