General Question

cockswain's avatar

Do you think it's okay to teach your kids that Santa Clause/ Easter bunny/ tooth fairy exists?

Asked by cockswain (15254points) September 16th, 2010

I was raised to believe in those things, only to learn they weren’t real one day. I raised my daughter similarly, and now she doesn’t believe in them too. It dawned on me, what’s the point? It seems all I accomplished was teaching her the world is magical in ways it isn’t when her brain was developing, and also deceived her. Is this a good tradition?

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63 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Myth and magic are fun for kids.

Seek's avatar

I didn’t enjoy Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin any less because I knew they were made-up stories.

I don’t agree with deceiving children into believing in imaginary creatures like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Jesus. I’ll share the stories with him, but he will know it is all pretend.

JilltheTooth's avatar

That’s an argument that could go on forever. I’m a firm believer in the idea that a young child is well equipped to enjoy the magic, and to deal just fine when it fades away. I also read Dr. Seuss to my daughter, we watched Disney movies, we pretended her imaginary friends were real. It’s all part of the fun.

cockswain's avatar

I agree kids enjoy the magic, but watching a movie or reading a story to them isn’t the same as doing a big elaborate hoax with presents magically showing up every year when they aren’t looking. I’m not saying it’s necessarily detrimental to their ultimate view of the world, but maybe it is. Does spending the first 7 or so years of your life believing the world can operate in such a way change your thought process for a long time in a less advantageous way than being taught to view it as more the way it truly is? It’s obvious people in society are pre-disposed to magical ways of thinking, does this stimulate that problem?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It’s less damaging to them than successfully and permanently convincing them that God, Satan, angels (or their theological equivalents in other religions—I abhor all organized religion equally) are real.

majorrich's avatar

I let my son believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny because I know them to exist, and they are all me. When he was old enough to understand, we taught him they are manifestations of our love for him in a seasonal kind of way. And that they also represent aspects of our faith. Gifts of life and love, celebrations of growth, renewal of life in the spring. We didn’t feel it was harmful to let him be a child for a few years.

Seek's avatar


My father and I had a tradition – every St. Patrick’s day, we found a field somewhere and went hunting for four-leafed clovers. He always told me that St Patty’s was the only day you could find the leprechauns that lived underneath them, and if you catch one, you could ask him for any wish and he would grant it.

I never once actually believed there were leprechauns living in the clover, and he knew I didn’t believe in them either. It was the time I was spending with my daddy, looking for clovers to press in our gigantic dictionary, that was magical.

harple's avatar

Hear hear @majorrich Beautiful!

Magic, fantasy and make-believe are important parts of human development – they can provide mental escapes that are useful through out life. It is important to recognise the difference, but that is something you can learn, once you’ve experienced it as a child…

phoebusg's avatar

Personally I don’t think it’s ever ok to lie. You can tell them the story- as a myth – myths don’t force you to believe something. It’s best to leave that up to the listener. Kids have amazingly smart brains, don’t bog them down or hold them back by overloading them with misinformation.
I think what’s fun for kids is information – period – they have the strongest will to make sense of the world. Give them proper information, and soon enough you’ll be receiving advise/learning from them almost as much as you’re teaching.

Blackberry's avatar

@majorrich No offense, but was that serious?

Edit: Nevermind, I read your answer again and it makes a little sense.

simone54's avatar

If it’s okay to teach them that Jesus is real….

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Blackberry “a little sense”? It’s the best thing I’ve read all week.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I was trying to phrase an answer, but I couldn’t come up with it better than @majorrich. It’s tough enough growing up, a little magic is ok. I still believe in Santa Claus. He’s alive in each of us in a little way and it’s what makes the season so much fun, not the crass commercial stuff. Let them be kids.

Aster's avatar

I am so glad I was told Santa Claus existed! It made my childhood so magical and beautiful ! I was a little sad when I found out it was made up but no biggie to me. By then I was “old” enough to deal with it just fine. I never once thought of my parents as having “lied” to me. I was grateful they had provided me with years of fantasy.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I feel the same way @majorrich does. There is a lot more to the stories than just the characters in them. When I talk to my son about santa, I also talk about the christmas spirit and the importance of giving (opposed to receiving). My son’s favorite part of Christmas is buying a gift for everyone else. I hope he never loses that.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Seaofclouds Nice. You’ve done a great job teaching him the real meaning of the holiday.:)

Blackberry's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Hmmmm, yes it sounds good. I think the wording just threw me off. “Manifestations of our love for him, in a seasonal kind of way” still sounds like something you tell a child, but I get it.

cockswain's avatar

After reading the responses so far, I’ve developed a new question. Many supporters of Santa are arguing the fantasy and magic is good for the kids, let them be kids, growing up is hard. Why do you think fantasy and magic are good for the kids? You don’t worry it sets them up for many follow up years of looking for/hoping for magic in the world that doesn’t exist because it’s ingrained into their brains at a very young developmental age?

I suppose that is a bit of a leading question as I inserted a lot of my own thoughts, but I hope that isn’t a sticking point. Again, I don’t know if it is useful, harmful, or neither. Just wondering.

@Seek_Kolinahr The family aspect is the most important, no denying that.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@cockswain For me, the magic and fantasy is all apart of using our imagination and creativity. There’s nothing I love more than spending time with my son and playing games about dragons, dinosaurs, or whatever else comes to mind. He’s made up stories about robots, about futuristic stuff like Star Wars, and about having cars that can transform into houses. I would never want to squash that side of him. It’s amazing and it’s something I think a lot of us lose touch with as we grow up and focus on facts instead of the magic and fantasy. Think of all the great things that have come from from the magic and fantasy.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@cockswain To me, a little fantasy and time off from the real world on a temporary basis is fine. If we made kids deal with the real world full time, as well as the difficulties in learning how to grow up would be pretty stressful. Hell I’d like some time off from dealing with the real world now.

JilltheTooth's avatar

When Katawagrey was 5 she spent all of one morning setting up a complex Santa’s Sleigh event with a small rocking chair, bits of rope and some shoelaces, and stuffed animals, arranged by size (as reindeer). The imagination and effort that took was truly artful. I have no qualms whatsoever about letting her enjoy the fantasy. I also never told her that her imaginary friends were invisible to me, I played along. I never used Santa, Easter Bunny et al as behavior modifiers, just treated the whole thing as some fun to be had. It’s all about the parenting.

MissAusten's avatar

I think it’s fine to continue family traditions of Santa and all those other fun imaginary things. I also think when kids are old enough to outright ask “Is it really real?” parents should be honest. I have a friend whose 10 year old son still believes in Santa because whenever he asks if Santa is real, she insists he is and tells him the kids who don’t believe in Santa just don’t get gifts because they are “bad.” In my opinion, that’s carrying it a bit far.

I agree with @majorrich that kids should have time to just be kids. It’s OK if they want to believe unicorns are real, or maybe dragons do exist somewhere. It’s fun, it’s imaginative, and it gives them things to use when making up their own stories and games.

Of our three kids, only the 7 and 5 year old still believe. Our daughter became suspicious when she was about 9, and when she sat down to ask seriously if Santa was real, we were honest with her. I told her Santa is a fun tradition based on St. Nicholas, and also that Santa represents the good feeling you get when you give a gift without expecting anything in return. She was wonderful about the whole thing, and got a huge grin on her face. She said, “So everything I thought was from Santa was really from you and Daddy?” Instead of feeling lied to, she was amazed. Probably because that year “Santa” brought her a pet rabbit, something she never imagined my husband and I would choose. I also reassured her that just because she knew the truth didn’t mean she wouldn’t get to enjoy the tradition anymore. Now she helps plan Christmas for her younger brothers, and being in on “the secret” with us just makes her day. :)

majorrich's avatar

I may have been a litle vague, but intentionally so. I don’t have the words to express the kind of love I have for my son. Santa Claus,the Tooth Fairy et al. were a means to manifest that love in a character that, when you are 3 or 4 represent some of the unexplainable magical kind of love we have for him. And it was a way to re-experience the magic of my own happy childhood by playing the roles. Cloaked inside all the gifts and candy and stories are lessons about unconditional love, about the wonder of how our own bodies grow and shed small teeth for larger ones (and how important it is to care for the second set). and the wonder of life that occurs and we sometimes take for granted. We had chickens when I was a child and I remember my brother and I colored an egg that was ‘live’ Too bad the chick didn’t come out blue. lol.

iamthemob's avatar

I feel like, if things stay the way that they are, they’re going to believe whether you teach them to or not. It might very well be kind of damaging if all their friends believe, and you try to convince them otherwise. Plus, why do all their friends get money for teeth/presents from Santa (if that’s your bag)/baskets from the Easter Bunny (ditto on the bag issue).

There’s a lot that I want my children to stand up for. But if they’re going to run around and tell all the other kids that their favorite mythical figures are BS…they’re not going to get the chance to stand up much at all….

harple's avatar

@cockswain (forgive this slightly unusual angle for responding to your new question….)

When talking to new born babies, we (generalisation I realise, but bear with me) almost automatically change the cadence of our voices, going high pitched and sing-songy. I recently discovered that this helps develop a childs ability to create sounds within that range, so by being sing-songy and going up and down with our voices, we are increasing the range of sounds which the child can reproduce.

I think there is something similar to be said for a child experiencing fantasy and magic – by allowing (and in the specific cases here, encouraging) these experiences, we are increasing the child’s range of, erm, reality… They perhaps become broader people as a result?

aprilsimnel's avatar

I wasn’t raised to believe in any supernatural being except Jesus. And we see how that worked out!

I don’t think it’s terrible, exactly, but I don’t see the point of it. I learned about fantasy and magic in reading books.

thekoukoureport's avatar

There is a wonder of the unknown that was lost, an innocence that left my kids faces when they learned me and mommy bought the toys and not Santa. It fueled an imagination thats is so much fun to see in both my children. I can only believe that if we didn’t have those stories and customs life would be a lot duller, and imagination would be “rarely seen and not heard”!

critter1982's avatar

I’m not so sure little white lies about an easter bunnys and tooth fairies negatively impact the development cycle of the brain in little children??? Not sure how or why it would. I plan on deceiving all of my children to believe in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny , and the toothfairy.
Oh and Jesus is real, not imaginary. My children will learn about him too.

cockswain's avatar

@thekoukoureport This kind of gets at the crux of my problem. I have zero issue with having kids enjoy fantasy, playing with Star Wars figures, building lego castles, watching cartoons, or reading Lord of the Rings. But when you describe the disappointment and innocence lost, was the elaborate Santa Clause (not sure if I keep misspelling Clause) fantasy in which the trusted parents are complicit worth the “fun”?

@harple I like your answer, in that it makes me wonder if there is some ancient reason why we instinctively feel compelled to provide kids with a fantastic world. Do we talk to them differently and teach them the world is more amazing than it is to make them feel safer and more protected? Does it help their development by stimulating their imagination? Or do we take it too far with the tooth fairy stuff?

cockswain's avatar

@critter1982 “Not sure how or why it would”

The idea is to think about it for a while. That was my knee-jerk response years ago, but now I’m wondering about it. And while Jesus may have been an actual person, you have no proof he could perform miracles, only faith.

NaturallyMe's avatar

I don’t think it’s a problem. I was told about them and grew up normal and wasn’t upset either when i found out it wasn’t real. I don’t even remember when i found out or if i even really believed in them all that much. It really wasn’t a big deal for me.

Also, kids hear about these things from friends and then they may feel out because they weren’t told about them, so i don’t think there’s any harm in it. Like others have said, kids enjoy stories and fantasies and such.

YoBob's avatar

It depends on what you mean by “exist”.

Let’s take Santa Clause, for example. While there was a St. Nicholas upon whom this character is presumably patterned, most rational adults do not believe in the literal existence of a jolly fat guy in a red suit that flies around the world in one night and hands out goodies to all the good girls and boys.

That being said, the less tangible concept of the Spirit of Christmas is quite a real thing. The Santa Claus character is simply a metaphor to represent the more esoteric concepts of peace on earth, goodwill towards men.

Likewise, the Easter Bunny is a metaphor for fertility and rebirth that comes with spring. While most rational folks don’t believe in the literal existence of a rabbit that hides eggs (another fertility symbol), the concept represented by that iconic rabbit is quite real indeed.

Children do not yet posses the cognitive ability to understand the less tangible concepts these characters represent. But they can relate to the characters themselves and such characters provide a foundation to build on as they develop.

In short, “Yes Virgina, there is a Santa Clause.”

Trillian's avatar

I bought a complete Santa suit when my son was very young. I kept it put away, and for a couple years on Christmas eve I would dress up like Santa and stuff a bad with some of the toys and stocking stuffers. Then I’d go outside and my oldest daughter would get him up and take him downstairs to hide behind the couch. They’d put cookies and milk out on the table and a couple carrots. I’d come in, ham it up a bit with the ho ho ho, place some presents and fill the stockings. I always kept a few candy canes in my pocket that I’d hang on the tree. I’d take a couple bites of cookie, stuff the carrots in my pocket and leave. They even took pictures one time. She’d put him back to bed and I’d sneak back in the house. I did the same for my youngest daughter when she was old enough, and my son was the one who helped out. It was magic for them and anybody who takes issue with that or wants to say that I harmed them somehow can take a flyin’ fuck in a rolling doughnut. They have some cool memories and that was my whole intention, making nice memories for them.

critter1982's avatar

@cockswain I guess my point was that I don’t think little white lies about these magical creatures have any sort of effect on a childs brain development. Okay perhaps it entices their imagination, but then again children have great imaginations anyways, I don’t see the presence of Santa Clause effecting that in any way. The only downside I see to these creatures and their ongoing fairy tales is that the true representation of these holidays is not represented with the exception of the “less tangible” analogies YoBob was referring to…And I agree, I don’t have proof Jesus performed miracles simply faith, but then again you don’t have any proof he didn’t perform these miracles, only faith.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Point 1: my kid would never buy it – he’s pretty smart.
Point 2: I think it’s okay if other parents feel this is necessary for whatever reason but this parent doesn’t.

Seek's avatar

@critter1982 I can’t prove that you didn’t perform miracles. But that’s a topic for another day.

I remember feeling betrayed when I walked in on my mom and grandmother wrapping presents from “Santa”, and then insulted when they continued the lie with “Oh, Santa sends them to us, so we can wrap them”. Apparently Santa outsources giftwrap duties.

critter1982's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr : OK offended, but did that effect your long term brain development??? I’m not saying that it won’t make a child upset for a couple hours even a day, but to be so significant that it actually impacts your brain structure, I find that hard to believe.

Never said you could prove that someone didn’t perform miracles simply that your belief he didn’t perform miracles lies in faith.

wundayatta's avatar

A belief in the verity of something is not required for a child to have fun with it. They know about pretend, and they get into it just as much whether it’s known to be made up or not. Just think about it. Do they have a problem believing in Disney characters? No one, I expect, is telling the children that the characters are real. Telling a child that Santa is real takes away nothing from the fun.

I think pretending Santa is real is more for the parents’ benefit. It somehow helps us act as if he were real because we are modeling it for the kids. That gives us our jollies. The kids couldn’t care less.

Seek's avatar

@critter1982 It was my first notion that adults lie.

Yes, it seriously impacted my view of the universe.

critter1982's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Ok it was your 1st notion, however there were many more after I am sure. Either way your view of the universe would have been impacted negatively…

For me personally, I knew well before the lie of Santa Clause that humans inherently lie to each other. I mean as children we probably tell lies everyday. It’s not the lie of Santa that I become distraught over, to me that seems a bit ridiculous and over dramatic.

free_fallin's avatar

There is no correlation between these “magical things” and a child’s innocence. I never believed in any of those things. My parents taught me about Santa Claus and the like but I never believed in it. It didn’t take away my innocence. I thought it was stupid to lie to me. As I got older those feelings progressed and I eventually asked them why they felt the need to lie. I began to distrust them once I realized they were doing what they felt was best for me rather than provide me with the honesty I needed. You can teach them the stories and let them know it’s all myth. Teach them about god, teach them about the fairies that live in the trees. They will choose to believe or to daydream about those things and let their imaginations run wild. Personally I feel the latter is a much better outlook for a child to have. It was always a better outlook for me. My children will be taught everything and be given the choice to believe. I will encourage them to seek out answers and proof for everything. I will not love them any less if they choose to believe in things I know to be fake. I will always support them but I will not hide my own beliefs from them.

thekoukoureport's avatar

We all get to answer through our adult eyes, how wonderful, but what I am saying is the level of family involment with the “lie” in and of itself builds lasting loving memories to last a lifetime. I don’t think that now that my children are grown they don’t appreciate what we went through nor do I believe that any of those holidays would be special if not for the fantasy thats involved. Now I know all of us here may not have got what they wanted when they were little, but there was a time that each and every one of you wished that there was a Santa Claus and reveled in the thought.

@free fallin woohoo gonna be some fun in your house. If what you say here is true you lost your innocence long before Santa came along. My childrern have been blessed with the ability to be the age they are. I tell them all the time that they only have one chance to be 13 (or whatever age). Once you make the adult decisions innocence will be lost.

I would like to have my children be children for as long as they can. It’s not necessary to have all the answers, it’s better to know you don’t.

free_fallin's avatar

@thekoukoureport Your idea of fun and innocence is relative. I have no ill will towards anyone who chooses to teach their children about these things. I respect their decisions just as I expect them to respect mine. Not believing in Santa Clause had nothing to do with my innocence and making an assumption that somehow I missed out, or my innocence was lost, is bordering on the offensive side. I wish you and your children well.

thekoukoureport's avatar

offensive? really? Your reponse is a display of someone who was ‘Lied to”. Your parents worked their asses off to buy you presents on a day that means absolutely nothing and choose to give credit to a man in a red suit preaching for you to be “good for goodness sake” and you feel lied to? On top of it you say you still had your innocence?
Your right it is reletive, There is no other situation that allows for an entire family to take part in a wonderful joyous celebration of giving. Plus without these holidays where would our charities be. We become a more caring society during these times because of the story of christmas, and the christmas carol, and the like.
The Easter bunny is the same thing and other than those two holidays can you think of another time in the year where EVERY child’s eye twinkles?
Every person gets a little friendlier?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

This is a holiday discussion. Try to keep it mellow.

free_fallin's avatar

@thekoukoureport You’re getting off-topic. My last comment to you should have ended this discussion and made it clear I am alright with us disagreeing. You are making assumptions. I shall ignore those. Take care.

Seek's avatar

other than those two holidays can you think of another time in the year where EVERY child’s eye twinkles?

Halloween. All make believe, and everyone knows it. Costumes and candy. Kids love it – no magical mascot necessary.

cockswain's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I don’t intend this to be a holiday question. I view it as more a psychological question. On another note, do people think it is possible a child who doesn’t believe in magic at a young age be more likely to be a successful engineer or scientist one day vs a fiction writer,artist, or musician?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@cockswain Understand what you meant. That was directed at the jellys getting a little snarky.

harple's avatar

@cockswain part of me doesn’t want to answer that newest part, because I want to say NO in answer to you, and yet I believed in magic at a young age and am now a musician!

However, I think that science is like magic… discovering how the world works and why, and how everything relates to eachother – there’s so much mystery and wonder in all of that… I think scientists must have that desire within to expand their beliefs and always broaden their horizons… ooh, there I go again with that word “broaden” – I’m sensing a theme in my answers!

GladysMensch's avatar

I’ve always believed that the lie of Santa actually helps kids. In their early lives it gives them magic and fantasy. As they mature it turns into inquisitiveness and the search for truth. I’ve always viewed the process as a right of passage. A move from true wide-eyed innocence into a slightly more mature child. Kids change once they learn the truth about Santa. They see the world, and themselves as more complex than before. They also learn that lies, stories, myths can be used for good.

JilltheTooth's avatar

My dad was a successful engineer for 50 years. He loved the whole Santa Claus thing, the whole Easter Bunny thing, all those things.

GladysMensch's avatar

@cockswain IMO a child who doesn’t believe in magic is more likely to become a mid-level manager in some office… what with the broken dreams and all

Seek's avatar

Clearly the imaginations of Douglas Adams and Isaac Asimov were detrimentally stunted by their lack of belief in mystical caricatures.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I think this thread says more about how each family handled such things and in what context rather than if it’s a good idea in general.

Aster's avatar

@GladysMensch GA !
@Seek_Kolinahr she’s a little dramatic, yes, but who cares?
We need her superb knowledge on fluther !

Trillian's avatar

I don’t know what the correlations are, but I think it would be erroneous to make a conclusion based simply on one’s own family. My son, for instance, is 17 now and taking his final year in High School. Last year he had straight A’s and went on a white water rafting trip with the other A students. This year and last year he took pre-college classes. Calculus or pre-calc was among them last year. His IQ has always been off the charts and when he was younger his ADHD made me crazy, he was so hard to deal with. He is learning Japanese in his spare time as he plans to go to Japan and teach.
Now, I taught him that Santa was real as a very small child. He believed in the magic for a time and has some great memories and associations for Christmas. I don’t think that his level of intelligence was affected in a negative way, and he has said before that he treasures the times he got up with his big sister to watch Santa. That was one reason why he was so excited to play a role in it for his little sister. Who is also gifted. She wrote an essay to get herself into a gifted school and is now attending there and doing quite well. When she was about six or seven she asked me if Santa were really real. When I explained to her about a “spirit” of Christmas and some other esoteric concepts, she was a bit disappointed, but said, “I kinda thought so”. She was thoughtful and quiet for a while but seems undamaged. I guess we can ask her in a few years.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with fantasy in general (dishes running away with spoons? cows jumping over the moon? three men in a tub?), including Santa, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns… and Jesus… when it’s done with a light touch and a willingness to let the child grow out of that myth. What I do find harmful is some kind of continued insistence on some of those, enforced with discipline when one or more of the myths is balked at.

As for “searching for magic throughout one’s life afterward”, don’t we all do that? When I find a woman that I love intensely, and find that she feels the same about me, that’s a kind of magic every time it happens. When my dorg loves me just for feeding her and letting her in and out of the house a few times a day, that’s pretty magical. (And when she tells me that, even more so.) When my kids tell me that they love me, that’s magic that I wouldn’t trade for any other spell in the world.

Eggie's avatar

I think that that teaching those things are a waste of time. Better to teach them about Jesus.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I’ve been following this post and would like to share my own experience, yet realize that it will not really contribute to the conversation. So here is what I think: Considering that the vast majority of people who had this experience or have offered it up to their children and helped them through the process of learning the difference between the mythical to reality. In fact, more have offered up stories of happy memories, as well as learning life lessons.

I’d really like to hear from those that grew up where these characters and experiences weren’t made available to them. How did it feel when you hear it about from your friends? What was your parents’ explanation? Did you keep the secret to yourself?

Seek's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer One of my closest friends didn’t hear about Santa Claus until she was in the first grade (she skipped Kindergarten). The kids in her class were all excited about Santa, and she just told them that the idea of a “strange man breaking into {her} house just to leave presents was really pretty stupid.”

If I remember the story correctly, a couple of the kids cried to the teacher, and she had to write sentences. She doesn’t remember what the sentences were. I can only imagine something along the lines of “I will not disillusion my classmates without their parents’ permission”.

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