Hi everyone!

I have 2 great kids who are 9 and 6. They both still believe in Santa, the Easter bunny, and tooth fairy...well at least they say they do. I have doubts about my son (the 9 y.o.).

 

For a while now I have been feeling bad about keeping up the ruse. Every now and again they will ask questions and I just feel so guilty about brushing them off or outright lying to them. When they ask questions about other topics I never lie. I always answer their questions to the best of my abilities in a way they understand, but when it comes to these stupid traditions, I just can't seem to bring myself to tell the truth.

 

My husband has mentioned having similar feelings though we've never talked about if we should break the news to the kids or not.

 

What's your take? What did you do with your children, or what was your experience as a child? I know I believed as a kid, but I honestly can't remember when I found out the truth.

 

Should I answer their questions truthfully or keep it going until it runs it's course?

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Wait, are you saying Santa isn't real? Then who, may I ask, drinks the beer and eats the cookies we leave out every year?

My teen just fell into the pattern: really believing, then kinda-sorta, then going along with the fun. Personally, I think it's good training in critical thinking to have them start questioning and finding their own answers.

Myths are not untrue, they aren't lies. They are metaphors for life and lessons learned that need to be passed on. Truth is a spectrum. Santa is real, for a given definition of real. He is a metaphor for goodness and kindness and giving to others, and that isn't a bad lesson for a kid to learn. First Santa gives to them, and slowly they become Santa and learn to give to others...my kid loved the transition, and he held on to Santa as long as he could.

If you ask me, I'd tell you he was real. For the same reasons that, when I buy a stuffed animal, I have to package it so it can breath. Because I enjoy the imagination, the fantasy. And because if I can be Santa, then Santa exists. In some form.

Plus, imagination is important. Fairy tales are important. Shared culture and family traditions are important.

We let it run it's course, and no children were harmed in the destruction of this belief :)

I taught the bible as literature for many years, and I often said the bible was "true"--only insofar as, in places, it reflects the true thinking and feeling of many humans over the centuries.  But I also taught mythology and fiction (novels) the same way. Good literature reflects the human condition and is in that way "true."

 

Is there any better and briefer description of the dichotomies and struggles of human life than this from "Job"?

 

1Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.2 He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down : he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.  

I wasn't angry or anyting when I found out, although I did not do a good job keeping the truth from my little brother.  I actually started questioning religion as a result of Santa and the rest being lies, which isn't likely to happen here :).

 

I think if your nine-year-old asks directly, you should ask him what he thinks and why.  My parents almost never answered a direct question about Santa and the rest; they always asked us what we thought and why.  If the answers reveal that the game's up, though, you should come clean, especially if still believing could cause him to be teased or get angry with you.  

 

I also think you need an explanation for why you've been lying so long.  It could put you in a bad spot to admit to lying, because lying about one thing begs the question: what else have you lied about?  My mom told me about little white lies, like not telling someone that they look bad or helping kids have "a magical childhood" versus big, bad lies that hurt people like letting someone else get in trouble for something you did.  You could try that approach. 

 

PS, my parents still would make the presents, eggs, and money "magically" appear while we were sleeping, so it was awesome even without the made-up stuff.

My take on such things might make folk mad. I don't mean to. It's just that, to me, "innocence" almost always seems to mean "ignorant", especially referring to kids. I never had kids but I would have always told them exactly the truth with no exceptions. I never believed in a Santa Clause. When I was about 4 or 5 I saw "Santa" arrive on a fire truck and he was handing out cheap gifts to the kids of really poor folk. We were there to get "commodities". I could see plain as a day he was some old guy wearing a beard with a strap on string attached to it. I was always amazed...how could any human with a brain not know this?

Consider the benefits and costs of the Santa Claus lie.

One benefit: it gets/extorts a few days of good behavior without whatever punishments parents use.

One cost: it wrecks the trust that kids have in their parents.

I'm eighty and still remember where I was and the sadness I felt when I realized that my parents had bought the presents.

 

I'm with you about the extortion. My husband does encourage the push for that. If our 6 year old is acting bad he will mention how Santa Claus will not keep him on the nice list. Drives me crazy. I do gently help my son figure out that we get the toys and this is a game that hubby likes to play. My husband loved the magical Santa vibe growing up and I don't remember it either way actually but I do HATE lying to him (and his little brother and sister) so I don't directly lie but in the interest of marriage balance I let him create the mythology. At least he knows he has one parent to give him the straight up answers to his questions!

nomesaffron:

That's interesting.  Parents can use Santa as a way of ducking direct responsiblity for disciplining the child.  

Instead of saying, "if you don't behave, we might not give you presents",  you blame it on a magical person!  Furthermore, since Santa's omniscient, the parent doesn't even have to take blame for tattling.  The parent completely avoids being the "bad guy" in the relationship.

I can see how the myth is useful, but there must be more honest ways of doing it!  

We always had Santa, but he was never used as a bully stick. One can have the magic of make-believe without the darker side.

However, depending on the kid, sometimes parents need ever tool they can get. And very often a parent does need to avoid being the "bad guy".

For example: we used a timer for video games. The idea being the kid can get mad at the timer telling him to stop, but the parent can avoid being the "bad guy". Natural consequences work for a reason: don't wear a scarf, get cold. Don't clean your room, lose stuff. And the parent neatly sidesteps the battles...
If that is what you hear then there is little point talking to you.

What I said, actually, is that it depends on the parent and the kid. That specific situation. Some kids need more convincing than others. Some kids need to have alternate bad guys because they need so much that the parent has to be able to be a good guy, too. A high needs child can drain a parent quickly, and every interaction becomes a battle. When that happens the parent has to make something else the bad guy--like the timer in the example I used--or else the parent can never be the good guy.

And, actually, the point of parenting is not to be the bad guy. When done effectively there are natural consequences that eliminate the parent as police and focuses on the natural consequences of the child's behavior.

Yes, sometimes it is okay to lie rather than be the bad guy. Or at least to not tell the whole truth.
Good grief.  It's only three weeks a year and every kid knows Santa is going to give them presents anyway. The other 49 weeks a year (and even during the three before Christmas), parents are the bad guys all the time.  We are the people who make kids take a bath, get shots, do homework, clean their rooms, eat foods they don't like, etc.  If a person  happens to have a teenager, all they ever get to do is be the bad guy and constantly wrong about every subject.  Believe me, as a parent, we get plenty of bad guy time - every single freaking day.
Again, what I write and what you read seem to be at odds...so I'll make this brief:
I am totally okay with a few lies. We all lie, it's what holds society together. Kids are born lying, ask any parent. It's an instinct. All I care about it teaching him the proper time and way to lie.

It is not the parents job to brainwash anyone. It is the parents job to provide food, clothing, and shelter; a basic education; and the social skills (including lying) to survive in the world. I can raise a freethinking kid who can decide on his own which norms he chooses and which he rejects.

I never said I wanted to escape being the bad guy. In fact, I never said I did anything, I said that some families require different approaches than others.

Natural consequences have zero to do with religion. You don't change the oil in your car, the engine seizes: natural consequence. It's what happens after an action or inaction. If my kid keeps his room a mess and then can't find the item he wants in said mess: natural consequence. The consequence that arises naturally. No religion at all. Actually, the exact opposite of religion, because there are only reality based consequences.

I also never claimed wanted to never be a bad guy, I said that one can't always be the bad guy. (See the difference between never and always?) The time has no magical powers, and you are the naive one if you think a kid thinks it does. It just takes the personal out of the equation: it isn't the parent forcing the kid to stop, it's a neutral third party (the timer) that indicates the stopping time. That's why parents set rules, so there is advance knowledge on the kids part about what is happening. It's time to go to bed because it is eight o'clock, not because the parent is making you. Might seem subtle but it makes a huge difference to a kid.

Hope this clears things up!
Sorry, I couldn't reply directly to you for some reason...

Fast answers: I'm not brainwashing, there is such a thing as a freethinker.

While school may be mandatory, Homeschooling is viable option that avoids the waking up early issue. The natural consequence for not listening to the timer is not that the parent forces a stop, it's that the parent won't let the kid play the next day because trust was broken. It isn't an order, it's a negotiation agreed upon prior to playing.

Punishment doesn't work long term, according to most studies. Rewards do work. Instead of setting up a punishment for not listening to the timer, one can set up a reward for listening. There isn't a punishment, there is a lack of reward. Simple, very effective, and no brainwashing.

What you are describing is not brainwashing, it's a very simple training. People do what works, they avoid what doesn't. Reward the right thing and punishment is unnecessary. Brainwashing is, as you describe, forcing a person to change beliefs drastically. Raising a child does not require that level of force, or such a change of beliefs, although some parents can certainly do so.

Humans are not computers: humans have emotions and can learn very quickly. If you touch a hot stove and burn your fingers you learn to avoid stoves. That isn't brainwashing, that's learning. If you get a shot that hurts, but after you get ice cream of cuddles or a new toy, you learn that shots are worth the reward.

It isn't religion, it's a basic understanding of how behaviors are formed and shaped and how people learn.

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