10 Reasons to Tell Your Kids the Truth about Santa
Preface: I suspect I’m going to be in the minority here. That means many readers will disagree with what I’m about to put forth. That’s ok with me, I’m grateful for everyone who spends even a few minutes on my site, whether we agree or not.
This may seem like a light trivial topic, but I know from past experience, convictions actually run pretty deep on both sides. Additionally, I tend to think that it’s very hard for us in our current culture to disagree agreeably. Therefore, this can be a wonderful opportunity for us to be counter-cultural. Besides, I think it can be healthy to expose ourselves to an opposing viewpoint, especially if that opposition gets us thinking about what we believe and practice.
So I share this with love – a love for people and a love for truth.
Having said that, let me just state for the record - I love Christmas, I always have. This time of year is really special and there is so much to be enjoyed.
Also, as you read through my 10 Reasons to Tell Your Kids the Truth about Santa, please don’t lump me into any of the following groups:
People like President Trump who ask a 7-year-old kid whether or not she still believes in Santa and then follow that up with "Because at seven, it's marginal, right?"
The Santa haters who say, “Just switch around a few letters and look what you get…Satan!”
Or that lady who gave kids a hammer and had them smash up chocolate Santa Clauses in order to show their love for Jesus.
I don’t want to be grouped in with any of these people because I don’t advocate any of that behavior. I simply see this issue as one of truth versus deception. As the owner and operator of a website called BringingTRUTH.com I want to put forth my perspective on the matter, and of course you are certainly free to disagree with me…and maybe we can even still be friends afterwards, right? :-)
Imagine a scenario with me. A 3rd grade classroom, the teacher is busy at her desk helping a child, while the rest of the class is talking with one another. Seven-year-old Claire asks her friends what they are hoping Santa will bring them for Christmas. Her friends laugh and say, "There's no such thing as Santa! You still believe in Santa Claus?!" Claire responds, "What do you mean? Of course Santa is real. He visits my house every Christmas Eve."
Claire goes on to talk about the tags on her presents that read: from Santa. She says her mom and dad put cookies and milk out the night before Christmas and in the morning they're gone. Claire goes on to defend the existence of Santa on the mere basis that her mother wouldn't lie to her. This elicits more laughter from her classmates.
After more discussion, Claire comes to the realization, in front of the whole class, that she has been duped. She is hurt and embarrassed and can't wait to get home to talk with her mom and dad.
Some may argue: Mike, that's not a typical scenario, and even if that did happen, it's not the traumatic experience that you are making it out to be. Maybe...however, I have come up with 10 reasons why you should be honest with your kids regarding Santa, and I hope to challenge you in a good way.
Sometimes we tend to do what we do because that’s just what we’ve always done. So if you are a parent or not, let's take a fresh look at the issue and consider these reasons, and I hope they persuade you to come clean with your kids.
(These are not necessarily in order of importance.)
YOU WANT YOUR KIDS TO TRUST YOU
I want my kids to know that whatever I tell them is the truth, to the best of my knowledge. I don't want to intentionally lead them astray. I may tell them false things, but I won't do it knowingly. When I told my kids about Santa, I told them, "Some dads tell their kids that Santa is real when they know he's not. I refuse to do that to you. Even though Daddy is a sinner, and I'm going to mess up, as best as you can trust any man, you can trust me."
Once your kids discover that you were actively lying to them for years, how much do you think they'll trust you? Some kids may not be affected, but I have to believe that many kids trust their parents less after learning the truth.
Moreover, how do Christian parents who propagate the Santa lie, expect their kids to trust them when they tell their kids about God? When a little girl realizes that Santa doesn't exist, and that's the reason why she didn't get what she asked for at Christmas, she might figure that God's non-existence was the best explanation for why her prayers also went unanswered. This is a definite possibility. Why are we trying to confuse our kids and make trusting God more difficult for them? Sacrifice Santa, and gain your children's trust!
YOU WANT YOUR KIDS TO BE CRITICAL THINKERS
At some point, inevitably the questions begin:
"How does Santa make it all the way around the world visiting every house in a single night?"
"How does he get into our living room, especially since we don't even have a chimney?"
"He's watching me while I sleep? Uh, that's a bit creepy."
"What's with the Wal-Mart receipt in this box, I thought the elves made my PlayStation 4?"
How we choose to answer these questions will help shape how our kids discern truth. The Santa lie encourages credulity. Do you want your kids to be gullible? I don't. I want them to examine claims and think.
We teach kids about things like physics, logic and reason. Then we tell them an old guy from the North Pole, flies through the air in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, travelling the globe in a single night, dispensing gifts from what must be a bottomless sack of goodies to every child on the planet. What?!
If the doubts have begun in your home, and your kids are asking the questions, tell them, "Way to go! That's a great question. Let's consider it." Congratulate them for figuring it out. That's a kid confidence booster!
YOU WANT TO EMPOWER YOUR KIDS
When I told my son the truth about Santa, it created a special bond between us. He knew something that the other kids didn't know. He had a dad who thought enough of him to tell him the truth. When he heard other kids talking about Santa, he knew that he had special knowledge that his dad shared with him.
Some may interpret this as not letting my child enjoy the wonder of Santa, and somehow that detracts a bit from Christmas, but I don't think so. I would rather have a tight, trusting relationship with my son, over any perceived happiness that Santa might bring.
Knowing what I know about kids, it is very important to them if they know something that their peers don't. If they think they know something that those around them don't, they like that, and they will want to express it verbally.
On a side note: I told my child not to share what I told him with the other kids. I don't think that is our job. But the fact that so many kids relish telling their friends that Santa isn't real supports my earlier point – they want everyone around them to know that they have some special knowledge. (Or perhaps they just like crushing the hopes and dreams of other children! I don’t know…as they say, kids can be cruel.)
YOU WANT YOUR KIDS TO KNOW THAT YOU BOUGHT THE PRESENTS BECAUSE YOU LOVE THEM
If your kids are crabby toward you, and they feel like you don't ever do anything nice for them, is it because all the credit at Christmas is going to a fat guy in a red suit?
Giving and receiving presents at Christmas time is a great way to teach our kids generosity and how to show love to others, however if this is outsourced to Santa, then what reason do kids have to be grateful?
Instead of telling your kids about Santa, as parents we should tell them, "We bought you that iPad, not Santa. We worked hard to do that, and we did it because we are celebrating the birth of our Savior, and we love you."
YOU WANT YOUR KIDS TO UNDERSTAND THE GOSPEL
The gospel according to Santa: Be good and get good things. Be bad, get a lump of coal.
The gospel according to Jesus Christ: We're not good, yet we still get good things.
People who have repented of their sins and have placed their trust in Jesus, have been given eternal life, the greatest gift anyone could ever receive. In fact, God is so good; He even gives good things to bad people. God gives abundantly to those who deserve His wrath – people like me.
Santa, however, withholds from the undeserving. You only get something good, if you do what? Behave. He’s a total legalist! Santa's ways are completely moralistic, as he's busy making his list and checking it twice. C’mon Santa, put away your quid pro quo religious system of works! You’re not helping little kids understand the true gospel of God’s grace! Yes, I am calling Santa to repentance!
See, in Santa’s system, you got to be good to get the gift. That’s the exact opposite of the gospel! In God’s gospel, bad people, who know they’re bad, are given good gifts despite their badness! The whole notion of Santa is antithetical to the gospel! No wonder so many people have a false understanding of how to be saved.
Millions hold to this “gospel”: If you are good, you go to heaven. If you are bad, you go to hell. That's not biblical! Santa confuses things. Additionally, as one blogger pointed out, “The idea of an invisible man who lives far, far away, whom we invoke when we want something, but aren’t particularly bothered with him the rest of the time, sounds suspiciously like many people’s concept of God.”
Is it possible that part of the reason such faulty doctrine exists in adults is because of what they were taught from a young age at Christmas time?
YOU WANT THE FOCUS OF CHRISTMAS TO BE ON JESUS
This one's really a no-brainer. Of course, the true and living God of the universe, Jesus Christ, is greater than the fictitious character named Santa Claus. However, in the mind of a child, Jesus can't compete with Santa Claus. This jolly guy comes around once a year peddling all kinds of toys with a better delivery system than Amazon Prime (he doesn’t just bring them to your door; he brings them into your home straight into the living room). These gifts come at no expense to you, just your good behavior, and his standard of goodness really isn't that high. (Does anyone ever really get a lump of coal?)
What Jesus delivers is so much greater! Complete forgiveness of sins! But the reality is most kids haven't come to that place of brokenness over their sin, and recognizing their desperate need of a savior. I don't blame them, but it's our job as parents to gently instruct them and guide them to the arms of Christ. They need Him whether they realize it or not.
I would like to suggest this: Tell your kids, "I want you to know the truth about Christmas. It's not about Santa, and all that he brings. It's about Jesus Christ, and all that He is! In our home, the focus will be on Jesus, because the grace that He offers is far greater than anything Santa could ever produce in his workshop. Your mom and I need that grace so desperately, and so do you, here's why..." And share the gospel with them!
YOU WANT YOUR KIDS TO BE CHEERFUL GIVERS, NOT GREEDY MATERIALISTS
Let’s face it, Santa is about stuff. If kids were really honest, they would have to admit it’s not as though they love Santa for who he is, they love him for what he can do. That is, satisfy their desire for pleasure and fun through the toys that he brings. Would Santa have the same popularity if he didn’t come around bearing gifts?
In many ways, I don’t really blame children for feeling this way. Who doesn’t love stuff? I was the same way as a kid, and sadly sometimes for me even as an adult, it’s more about the gifts than the giver of the gifts.
I find it difficult to watch how companies through their advertisements focus so much on the materialism of the Christmas season. Both adults and kids are immersed in it. I'm an adult, and I'm susceptible to the ads, how much more are the kids?
I don't think we should blame companies though either. Companies are giving us what we want – material things. This is capitalism. This is free enterprise. I get it. Companies are simply doing what they do – attempting to turn a profit. So it’s no wonder they’re going to take advantage of what Christmas has become. So of course they’re going to perpetuate the Santa myth, but we as parents don’t have to. Yes, it’s an uphill battle, but I’m sure like me you want what’s best for your kids.
As Christians, we should seek to emulate Christ. Jesus wasn't about stuff. He was about people. He was about relationships. He was about reconciliation. He was a giver, not a receiver. Sometimes we forget it was Jesus who said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35
For many of us who have been blessed so greatly with material possessions, the question really shouldn’t be “What do you want for Christmas?” Instead, perhaps the question ought to be, “What do you want to give away for Christmas?” I believe kids do want to give; and we have a responsibility to cultivate that in their life. And we can start by knocking Santa out of the picture.
YOU WANT YOUR KIDS TO BEHAVE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS, NOT SO THEY CAN GET STUFF
Let's be honest. You've heard parents run this rhetoric before:
"If you don't quit crying, Santa Claus won't bring you anything!"
"Pick up your toys and clean your room or Santa won't bring you anything new to play with."
"Go to bed and get to sleep or Santa won't come tonight."
Listen, I am a flawed parent. I know it. God knows it. My wife knows it. My kids know it. I make all kinds of mistakes, but this right here is lazy parenting. Besides, has this technique ever worked outside the month of December?
Parents are using Santa for leverage. They threaten their kids into good behavior. We need to be diligently teaching our kids obedience. But not only that, teach them the proper motivation behind their behavior as well. It's not easy, but let's not employ Santa as a parenting tactic. It's not proper, and it just doesn't work.
YOU DON'T WANT YOUR KIDS TO BE EMBARRASSED
The moment they come to the knowledge of the truth might just be in a public setting with their peers and it could prove to be an embarrassing situation for them. See the introduction of this post. Why run the risk of putting them in that predicament?
YOU DON'T WANT TO LIE TO YOUR KIDS
Lying is a sin. Even to those who justify it in the name of fun. God desires truth from His followers. Please repent and come clean.
"Chill out dude, it's not that big a deal! So what if my kid believes in Santa, it's just fun.”
I’ll admit that there is an element of wonder when it comes to Santa. However at the same time, I would argue that this time of year has many elements of wonder for us to enjoy without us being misleading in any way. I think this issue simply comes down to truth – truth versus deception. At the end of the day, I will let the reasons listed above stand on their own merit as to whether or not this is an important issue.
"Telling kids that Santa is real promotes imagination, and imagination is good for kids."
Telling a kid that Santa is real doesn't encourage imagination; it actually does the complete opposite. Imagination involves pretending, and in order to pretend something exists, one has to believe that it doesn't exist. The irony is that if you really want to encourage your child's imagination, tell them Santa doesn't exist, but you are going to pretend like he does. Now you’re promoting imagination!
"Don't you know the story of St. Nicholas?"
Yes, I do. However, the modern Santa Claus figure bears almost no resemblance to the 4th century pastor known as St. Nicholas. If you want to teach your kids about St. Nicholas, go ahead and tell them the origin of Santa, but also tell them how people have perverted the story of a very generous and compassionate Christian man.
"It's just tradition. I believed as a kid, my parents believed as kids, and we turned out just fine."
Maybe so. However, just because something is a tradition, doesn't mean that it's right. See: bloodletting by leeches, foot binding and racial segregation.
I don’t usually ask for feedback, but feel free to comment below, that’s what it’s there for. If you don’t want to put your view out there for the whole world to see, you can reach me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even if we ultimately disagree on this issue, can we at least agree on this? No matter what we do, let us be truth people who glorify God above all else and let us teach our children to do likewise. Agreed?
I thank you for reading this, and Merry Christmas!