Lying to kids about Santa is a rite of passage. Most of us can probably recall the moment our parents began getting too lazy and less concerned with Christmas presents, or when kids at school began telling each other that Santa wasn’t real, and that those who still believed were “babies.”
Even though lying about the existence of Santa seems like a normal and nice thing to do (think of all that Christmas excitement that you’re giving to little kids), some experts claim that lying to kids sets a bad precedent, particularly at that stage in their lives.
David Kyle Johnson, philosophy expert from King’s College, spoke with Popular Science and said that adults shouldn’t promote the literal belief of Santa Claus. “When we say that, despite the evidence, they should believe anyway, that’s a very dangerous precedent to set,” he says. Johnson believes that the Santa myth discourages critical thinking and that it makes parents actively lie to their kids when they start to have questions and doubts. This could later lead to pain and actual psychological trauma, which sounds extreme because it’s just Santa. “When we tell them the Santa Claus lie, we betray that trust,” he continues.
Other experts aren’t that concerned with this myth, although they still believe that we should be careful with kids and avoid lying to them. Cyndy Scheibe, a psychology professor who’s studied to myth of Santa for over 30 years, says that she considers the myth more like a story instead of a lie. She says kids go from believing to non-believing around the age of 7 or 8, where they develop “concrete operational thinking.” As kids age, their thinking becomes more organized, and they start to poke holes in the Santa theory, like how does a man enter a chimney? What if your house doesn’t even have a chimney? The Santa myth doesn’t have the most thought through narrative.
Although both experts have different theories and outlooks, the important thing here is to let go of the myth as soon as the child is ready and to try to get the most fun out of the Christmas season, since that excitement will never return. You can still have fun Christmases, but they don’t really compare to that feeling you had at age 6 or 7, when you ran down the stairs to tear open your presents.