To believe, or not to believe in Santa…
Growing up, believing in Santa wasn’t even a question! All of my classmates believed in Santa.
Today, the practice of teaching children to believe in Santa is being called into question.
There’s even controversy on the original story of St. Nick!
Yes, Saint Nicholas was an actual person. And he was a kind person who did good deeds.
However plenty of moms point out that he gave out of love, not to because children were well-behaved.
Today we want to talk about some of the pros and cons for moms trying to decide whether or not to teach their children to believe in Santa Claus.
And if you’re still torn, we also have a compromise where you can teach your children both to believe and the truth about Santa.
Full disclosure, Jo and Rachel both have a Santa-filled holiday – but we’re attempting to be objective today and weigh both sides.
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Rachel says | “I’m Team Santa”
Believing in Santa is Fun
Let’s start with the most obvious reason and, likely, most common reasons that many families include Santa in their Christmas celebrations.
Santa is freakin’ fun!
And believing in Santa, elves, reindeer, and magic makes Christmas extra fun for kids.
Childhood is magical.
The line between fantasy and reality is blurred with imagination and it’s so easy for kids to believe.
My childhood Christmases were truly magical. I believed it was magic and it was. Perception is reality.
The excitement and joy were real. The memories are also real. To this day Christmas is my favorite time of year.
I want my kids to have that same experience. Plus, sharing Santa with my children brings some of that same excitement and joy back.
This time in their lives where belief is so easy won’t last long.
I admire my kid’s ability to believe and Santa is just one way I encourage it.
Kids aren’t jaded by our cynicism yet. Magic aside, the fact that they are capable of believing that a random stranger loves all of them so much pretty amazing.
This idea of believing without seeing is still important long after the Santa years, but also becomes more difficult. We practice this concept through religion as well, but that’s not the only area of our lives. As they grow up and face the world I hope that they will believe in them self, in their family, and in love.
Maintain Christmas Traditions
In my family, the belief in Santa is a tradition and ties into many other holiday traditions as well.
There’s the lead up to Christmas where we write letters to Santa and make a special visit to see him.
Then on Christmas Eve we always read The Night Before Christmas and leave out Jack and cookies. *what… just us?*
Well, I doubt that I am the only one who has made Santa part of their family Christmas traditions.
Many parents want to share the same holiday activities that they enjoyed in childhood with their own children. So if Santa was a part of your own childhood Christmases, you probably have similar traditions that you want to continue with your own kids.
I’m a sucker for traditions, silly as some may seem.
Traditions are actually really good for kids and families. They help strengthen family bonds, provide stability and structure, and promote a sense of belonging.
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Santa is Everywhere
Seriously, if you leave your house, turn on the tv, or listen to the radio in December you will see Santa.
While the “everyone else is doing it” isn’t a great reason, it does make it harder to NOT do the Santa thing.
Unlike some of the other childhood mythology, Santa is totally unavoidable. You might be able to just ignore the Easter Bunny and hope your kid doesn’t notice. Not true with Santa. Your kids are going to notice.
Not only will they hear other kids talk about Santa, they will also see him at the mall, in books, tv shows, commercials, and movies, in you neighbor’s lawn decorations, on cereal boxes, coke cans and billboards.
There is not escaping Santa. He is everywhere.
As a parent, you will have to address Santa one way or another. While sticking to the truth may seem the most straightforward approach, it is not necessarily easier. Our society tends to push the Santa narrative. In fact, Santa is so pervasive that some kids believe in him even when their parents don’t encourage it.
The Santa myth has some serious staying power.
Kids Will Figure It Out Anyway
This may seem odd to list as a pro, but hear me out.
Kids will become skeptical. They’ll start questioning. They’ll use their imagination to try to figure it all out. They’ll exercise those important critical thinking skills trying to solve the Santa mystery.
This is all developmentally appropriate. They are learning to think for themself.
Kids experiment, evaluate evidence, and analyze with logical reasoning. I’ve never known anyone to apply the principles of the scientific method with more excitement and enthusiasm than children trying to determine if Santa is real.
Though my kids are still too young to doubt, I hope that when they do I will follow their lead and turn their questions back to them.
“What do you think?”
Most kids will figure out the truth about Santa on their own.
This process of discovery seems a bit like a childhood rite of passage.
And it turns out the most kids have a positive reaction to their Santa discovery and its the parents who feel sad about it. The child has achieved a milestone.
Discovering the truth about Santa is a sign of growing up. Hopefully, it’s also a sign that my child is growing into someone who can think for them self.
True Mom Story: While I try not to go to extraordinary lengths to encourage the Santa myth. Last year my 4 year old pulled a last minute request on Santa’s lap for a dog that dances and sings. Seriously, does that even exist? He insisted that the elves could make it and really who can argue with that logic?
I scrambled to get a suitable toy so as not to shatter his sweet belief and managed to find one on Christmas Eve. Turns out I had done this same thing to my own mom as a 5 year old.
I know I’m not the only mom who’d been in this situation. I even found this super cute Christmas song on Spotify about the exact same parenting issue.
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Jo says | “Why NOT to Encourage Believing in Santa”
Remember, in the spirit of full disclosure, my kids (at ages 2 and 4) do believe in Santa.
Not only do they believe, but I’ve encouraged it. And I do other crazy things too, like the Halloween Witch.
That being said, there are TONS of reasons for moms not the encourage the Santa myth.
The Santa Ruse Is Exhausting
Teaching your kids to believe in Santa isn’t as easy as saying, “Hey, Santa is this fat dude who brings presents to good little boys and girls, k? So be good”.
Nope, it’s a whole story… and after they’ve gotten the background info, they questions start rolling in…
“Why does he wear red?”
“How does a fat man fit in the chimney?”
“How does Santa see me from the North Pole?”
As I read on a fellow blog, “telling your kids about Santa is not all it’s cracked up to be—it’s like five percent fun and 95 percent deception, hard work and looming consequences.”
You have to hide the presents, buy (and hide) different wrapping paper, and not accidentally slip-up when talking to adults.
All this for keeping up a lie. Which brings me to my next point…
Santa is a Lie
Santa Claus isn’t real, so the cold hard fact is that teaching your kids to believe in him is lying to your kids.
The worst part is that they will eventually find out you lied to them.
This isn’t like the time you helped your child look for their Halloween candy when in reality you ate it the night before. That secret will *hopefully* follow you to the grave.
We’re supposed to build relationships based on trust with our children. It provides them with the safety and security they need.
And don’t even get me started when it comes time to defend Santa. This happens when your kid comes home all upset because someone told them Santa isn’t real.
If you’re not ready to pop their child innocence bubble, you’ll lie to them and tell them that the other kid was lying. How backwards is that?
Being Good for the Wrong Reasons
Don’t get me wrong, I believe it bribing kids.
But telling your kid they have to finish their peas before they get dessert is one thing.
Telling your child they should be a good person for the sole reason of getting presents is a much bigger deal.
Kids should behave and do good things because it’s what’s expected of them. It’s the right thing for a human being to do.
And some psychologists suggest that we actually get more enjoyment from being kind to others when we don’t expect anything in return.
The good feeling you get from giving and loving another human should be the only motivation for spreading kindness.
And after all, Christmas is supposed to be about giving (not receiving), right?
Labels Children as Good and Bad
Let’s set aside the creepy notion of Santa for a second (“he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…”).
That’s just weird… but let’s concentrate on the next line: “he knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!”
Santa puts kids into two categories: good and bad.
Things “bad” kids do is pout, cry, talk back to their parents, not finish their vegetables, take a toy from their sibling, not keep their room clean, etc.
But this means that if you do bad things, you’re automatically a bad kid. Those actions define you.
And that’s just not right.
My son doesn’t go to bed when I tell him to, he stays up reading despite my telling him over and over to go to bed.
So does he always listen to me? No.
But is he a “bad kid”? Absolutely not.
I love my children unconditionally. When they do bad things, I still love them.
I also work very hard to teach them that their actions don’t define them.
Always try to do the right thing. You’re going to slip up, it happens, and then you have to fix it.
Those mistakes don’t automatically doom you to “bad kid” status.
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The Santa Belief Compromise
Are you still undecided about what’s the right move for your family? Here’s an idea.
Make Santa real. Specifically, make the idea of Santa real.
So, no, there’s not a jolly old man with a long beard flying around giving toys to young kids.
Rather a “Santa” is anyone who is giving selflessly and unconditionally.
Teach your children to be a Santa by giving to their friends, family, or teachers.
Show them that gifts can, but don’t have to, be material objects.
Sure you could shop for the perfect bottle of wine for your kid’s teacher (best teacher gift, in my opinion). Another idea would be a handwritten note from your child telling what they’ve learned and how they enjoy the class.
Explain that Santa = giving. When we celebrate at Christmas events with Santa, we are encouraging the act of unconditional love.
You might have realized by now that Jo and Rachel LOVE to engage in holiday debates.
Have you read them all?
We’ve debated if it’s bad to give your child a Christmas cookie, how many gifts to give your kids, and if decorating for Christmas is worth it.
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I love that you mentioned how believing in Santa Clause can be used as a family tradition. My wife and I have been debating on whether we should teach our children about Santa once they’re old enough, and we want to find a fun tradition to help them believe. Maybe we should hire a Santa impersonator to make our traditions more convincing.
Of course Santa (and all the fun activities that come with it) can be a tradition! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the article. Ultimately, both Rachel and I opted in favor of Santa. No regrets so far 🙂