Why Lie To Children?

Why Lie To Children?

I have to say, I don’t really get the whole ‘Father Christmas’ thing. I don’t understand why parents will spend years convincing their children that there really is a fat old man who comes down the chimney and leaves them presents – only to tell them later that they were lying, and have the children heartbroken.


When I was young, my parents never told me that Father Christmas, or Santa, or whatever, was real. They didn’t say he wasn’t, but it was never a conversation we had. Any mention of him was in a jokey, “Oh, Father Christmas, right..” *nudge* kind of way.

I asked the mother person about this the other day, because my friends were sharing stories (mainly of how devastated they’d been when they found out it wasn’t true), and she said they’d done that deliberately. Because they were always telling us that Christmas was about Jesus, they didn’t feel it made sense to tell us it was about Father Christmas too. After all, if Santa then turned out to be a lie … what would we think about Jesus?

And that’s a fair point.

I started thinking about this in more depth. With Father Christmas, you’ve got this whole ‘naughty or nice’ thing, like only the good kids get presents. (Though in reality, it’s more like only those who can afford it get presents, due to buying things requiring money.) That’s kind of the opposite of the whole Jesus thing. If you believe what it says in the Bible, Jesus was sent because we were all naughty and we all screwed up.

He was sent because none of us were nice enough.

You know, people teach their kids that you only get presents if you’re good and that’s fair enough: they’re just trying to give them a motivation to behave. But isn’t unconditional love a better message to send? If you tell your children they’ll only be rewarded if they get it right, and they’ll be punished if they mess up or make mistakes, they’re going to be afraid to admit to you when they do something wrong. If you tell your children they get presents whatever happens because you still love them, surely that’s a better message to send?

I see so much stuff in real life and on the internet every day, where people just can’t talk to their parents and can’t have a conversation because they don’t feel accepted, where people are cut off from their family because they chose to take a different path from what their parents wanted, where people don’t have a family who cares … and it breaks my heart. Yet we’re sending children the message that that’s what life is like.

You get presents if you’re good. You get coal if you’re bad. (Another thing my parents never told me; it was only recently I heard that part of the story.)

You get presents if you make the right decisions, but if other people lead you astray, you take the blame too. You get presents if you do what your parents think is right, but you get nothing if you stray from their expectations, even if they’re actually wrong, if they’re narrow minded or mistaken.

There are conditions.

That’s what we tell them. To be loved you must fulfil conditions.

So, thinking about this, I came to a decision. I’m not yet seventeen, and it’ll be a long while before I have children, if I ever do (which, given by how much babies freak me out – they have. no. bones. WHAT – is looking somewhat unlikely). But if I’m ever bringing kids up, I don’t intend to lie to them. I don’t intend to tell them that there’s a fat old man who gives them presents, if they’re good.

I intend to tell them that I’ll give them presents, even if they do mess up and make mistakes or stupid decisions, because it doesn’t matter to me, because I still love them. And I hope that they then won’t have the moment of heartbreak that children who believed in Father Christmas have when they realise he’s not real. I hope they’ll grow up thinking that they can admit it to us when they screw up because that won’t change our opinion of them.

I think unconditional love, and truth, is a more powerful message than the shallow lies surrounding Christmas that so many kids are brought up on.

But I do sort of still believe in the tooth fairy.

13 thoughts on “Why Lie To Children?

  1. Fantastic post! My brother and I both worked out the nonexistence of Santa Claus fairly early on, but I reckon the source of many of my trust issues may lie there. Still keep up the facade for the wee cousins, though. Because if I don’t they might not believe I go to Hogwarts, and then what would I do when I try to get them to go to bed? :P

    Merry Christmas to you, anyway. Hope Merlin doesn’t kill you.

  2. Spectacular. Brilliant. Scintillating. Lustrous. Shiny. Glaring. Wait… *throws out thesaurus*

    Anyway, great post. I completely agree. It seems silly to tell lies in a time when the truth is so important. And why would someone jump down a chimney if there’s a fire lit beneath, just as there should be on a frosty night? Very good post.

  3. My parents never told me Santa was real either, and I’m probably not going to tell my kids, if I ever have them. I may tell them Narnia and/or elves are real, just for fun. I did think Narnia was a real place when I was a kid; I kept hoping I’d open a door and BAM! Narnia. Never did work. Sigh. :)


    I really loved this post, even though my parents told me Santa was real. You have a good point about Santa turning out to be a lie and how that relates to Jesus. I mean, I don’t believe in any religion, but it was still a really good argument.

  5. A beautiful post. I must admit: I’ve never thought of it that way, even when I had an upbringing similar to yours described where the only mention of Father Christmas was via joke. You’re so right that unconditional love should be the message we give our children, especially now in this ever-commercial age.

    1. It’s something that only occurred to me recently, but I think it’s something I’ll always try and put more emphasis on. Christmas is SO commercial – about a quarter of the year is dedicated to it! And while it’s important in the Christian calendar, and yay, winter solstice … at the same time, it seems ridiculous to spend three months thinking about one day.

      1. I totally agree. I’m not what’s more annoying: shops putting Christmas stuff up in September, or peers announcing it’s one month to go. To be honest, this year, I didn’t get excited about Christmas until the 21st.
        As a country, I fear we’ve lost the guilt aspect that should lead us to look after lesser off countries whilst getting presents

  6. Happy Christmas! You made some very good points here. I was thinking this year about whether or not I would bring up my children to believe in Santa Claus, if I had kids. I’m not religious, but I just became suddenly skeptical of the idea of effectively lying to them about it. There is the whole “magic” thing, but is it really necessary to persuade them to believe in Santa? I told my mum about this idea, and she seemed horrified at the idea of a Santa-less childhood.

    It’s great to hear about another person with the same point of view (as me, not my mum), though. I guess it’s a “cross that bridge when we get to it” sort of thing, but your post has kept me thinking about this idea. I hadn’t thought about the Santa versus Jesus belief thing, either, which was interesting.

  7. OH YES! YES YES YES YES! It’s the same way with my family and me. Why are you going to tell kids that there’s a Santa and he only loves you if you’re good, when it’s the opposite with Jesus? And what’s that going to do to them later? How are they going to be able to tell what’s a lie and what’s not?

    Excellent job! :D

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