December 3, 2023


Amazing parenting technician

Is Santa a lie? – Responsive Parenting

4 min read
Is Santa a lie? – Responsive Parenting

It really depends on how you frame it but I’d like to go a bit deeper into the concepts of lying and fantasy in general.

I think honesty and truth are actually far more nuanced and contextual than we like to admit. We hold honesty as a virtue but it’s rude to just walk up to someone and tell them you don’t like their hair. It might be honest… but hurtful. In this case, omission is best.

If I am having a panic attack and have to cancel a dentist appointment, I may say I have a cold instead, this lie is more socially acceptable than pouring my heart out to the secretary.

Another example, if my mom calls and tells me that she might have cancer but she’s not sure yet so don’t tell the kids…. but my kids inquire about why I look upset… see? Everyday we live within these grey areas of truth and maintaining privacy.

Children truly believe in magical creatures, not because we teach them to but because their minds are not bound by the confines of reality. I think the magic of Christmas can be an opportunity for adults to engage in that fantasy with children and that’s how I see it but honour everyone else’s perception too.

Honesty is natural, lying is actually the skill.

Children will need some information on when and how to lie, as in the incidences above. Lying without causing harm, is something we all do, but is a skill and children will lie, inappropriately, in the process of learning those complex skills. As a chronic over-sharer, I can promise you, it is important to know when to give certain details.

At the same time, secrets and lies are a tool used by abusers so children benefit from having a layered understanding of lying. Otherwise, they may struggle to spot a really dangerous lie versus all the lies they hear everyday. We can say “truth is the most important thing” all we want but if they witness us lying and everyone else, all the time, which they most likely will… it’s confusing. When we make blanket statements about virtues we don’t even uphold ourselves, we’re putting way too much pressure on our children. It’s the same as how we expect them to be calm all the time, while our emotions are flying all over the place. We should make children aware of dangerous lies. Discuss the grey areas of truth. Use what if scenarios with our children.

Some types of lies…

Dangerous lie: A lie that could hurt someone or something.

Fantasy/pretend: Playing within the existence of fictional places, people and things.

Privacy: A lie told to protect someone’s privacy (complicated).

Omission: Not giving all information that comes to mind. Knowing what info to say out loud and what to keep to yourself.

Edited to clarify:

Questions from followers

What about if they ask you point blank?

Personally, if I am asked point blank if something is real, I will be honest. I do think that builds trust and makes sense within the fantasy context of Christmas.

What about the naughty list?

I also am against any part of Christmas (or anything for that matter) that is used to manipulate behaviour. This is not exclusive of Christmas but it comes up more at Christmas and we discuss the theories of behaviourism and how those methods make people feel, open up discussions about what our children think of those ideas. It is a chance to discuss so many things about society that we can alter to be more in line with our current values.

What about other children who don’t get much from Santa?

I do like to be mindful of this so I give 1 gift from Santa and stockings. They usually don’t even realize which gift was from Santa 🤷‍♀️ but I do think keeping it simple helps with the comparison of gifts that happens at school. I remember thinking I was “bad” and that’s why my friends got much bigger gifts. It didn’t spoil the magic but is a part we can avoid by being conscious of the children in our child’s social circle or school. We also discuss how some people don’t celebrate Christmas. That conversation is important too. We used to spend our Christmas with our good friends who are a Muslim family (they loved Christmas) and the 2 boys were together that day with very different Christmas mornings (1 having a visit from Santa and 1 not) and it never came up as an issue. It was normalized that Christmas is different in every home.


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