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Debate: Should parents trick their kids to believe in Santa Claus?

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The tricking of children into belief in a higher being, that brings presents (on Christmas) and also has the supernatural power of generally changing the lifetime - being it Santa Claus in English speaking countries, Child Jesus (Ježíšek, Ježiško, Jézuska) in central European countries, Christkind in German speaking countries, and otherwise named figure elsewhere - is widespread not only in the Western civilization. This is not typically a malicious trick, but just a fun trick to foster a belief in the figure. Yet, many wonder whether this is ethically justified, and whether it is healthy for parents and children that strive to develop mutual trust.

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Pro

  • The tradition helps children to mature. If the children knew that it is actually their parents (and/or other relatives or otherwise close people) who give them presents, they would be probably too realistic about what can they expect under the Christmas tree. It is the belief in a higher being that frees them from the reality of everyday life, fostering their imagination. This helps in many ways. Firstly, during this one time of the year, the child has this unique opportunity to think and even dream about what she or he would like to possess, and/or (more importantly) to change in her/his life - limitless. So he or she can learn how to make his or her own mind, how to dream about and plan the future. Writing a wish list to Santa is a great way how to clarify priorities. Secondly, there is this "looking forward to" period, during which the child learns how to retain and foster his or her own belief, her or his hope. And then there is the moment of truth, during which one learns how to cope with reality, filled either (or both) with great happiness and/or considerable sadness. All these phases are essential for personal development, which culminates in the understanding that the fact, that there is no Santa Claus and parents (and/or other people) had been lying about it, is perfectly ok.
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Con

  • The tradition may actually stunt intellectual maturity. Critical thinking is a high-level learning skill that involves checking data by evaluating the strong and weak points of reasoning and the existence of empirical information. As this forms the basis of rigorous academics, inquiries could be met with a more open-ended model that encourages the child to engage his/her intellect to understanding the methodology behind discerning real concepts from fantasy. The priority of believing in the face of evidence or reasoning which contradicts that belief, promotes a model of learning based on authority and accepting irrational concepts, discouraging healthy skepticism. Questions about Santa's existence are likely to be dismissed as opportunities to exercise critical thinking only to be replaced with 'magical thinking' that forms a poor substitute for sound reasoning. They may learn that false arguments work as a substitute for logic. Indeed, the child will learn eventually that Santa Claus is false, but that knowledge may likely come through admission rather than logical deduction. Participation in this deception teaches children that dishonesty at the expense of those who are gullible, like younger children, can be amusing and fun. It may also teach them that we should believe in ideas that are rewarding with the hopes that they are true, rather than believing in them for actually being true.
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Lying: Is lying to children justified?

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Pro

  • Lying to children can be justified. Firstly, the ideas of magic, and better things give a kid something to believe in. If you go to a child's house during Christmas time, who believes Santa is real, you will see the brightness on his face, and you can tell he has "adopted the Christmas spirit". A child who knows Santa's mythical existence is more absorbed by the ideal of receiving than the spirit in which we give at Christmas.
  • Santa can be abstract. We need to think of Santa not as a person with a long white beard, but as a state of mind. We all need something to believe in. You don't have to be religious to believe in Santa, you just need to believe in Santa. His comforting laugh can cheer anyone up and give them the "Christmas spirit".
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Con

  • There is not reason for a parent to tell their kid foolish lies. It does not benefit the kid in anyway. All it teaches them is that adults lie.
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