This week’s question: How would you go about introducing fictions like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus to your children?
It’s entertaining, the gullibility of a child. They’ll believe almost anything you say so long as it seems remotely plausible, and for a child, what counts as remotely plausible is pretty wide open to all sorts of ridiculousness. And rightly so, for if this wasn’t the case — if children, more often than not, were skeptical of everything you said — then they’d most likely get owned by everything around them, like that rock you said isn’t for eating and that fire you said isn’t for touching. Children need their parents to relay accurate information to them so that they don’t get owned by the world around them. Strangely, this doesn’t seem to apply when molding a child’s behavior. Indeed, some parents are liable to tell their child anything just to get them to do what they want.
Take for instance, the customary fiction of Santa Claus. Be good, we advise our children, because if you’re not — if you behave badly — then there will be no presents for you under that tree. The fantasy, we notice, is useful. Lying to children gets them to behave. With a lie, we can conjure a reason to obey where there may not have been one previously. This is the insidiousness at the heart of all dogma, but it should also give us pause about whether we decide to dupe our kids with Santa. Bottom line, don’t rely on fake reasons when real reasons are available.
Brian Gallagher is a fourth-year philosophy major.
I’m not a parent, and I know I’m only musing, but I believe the best way to raise a child is to tell them to question everything and judge things using evidence, logic and reason. As they’re growing up, I would tell them things that I know to be factually correct and morally good. And, I’m sorry if I offend anyone reading this, but the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are not real. Call it what you will, “harmless fun” or “tradition,” but telling your children year after year that a magical being exists when you know it doesn’t is lying. I don’t necessarily think that people who tell their kids Santa Claus is real are bad parents, but they are lying to their kid. And, when they find out it isn’t true, parents risk possibly making the kid feel like their trust was betrayed.
This is something that is hard to address because it is just so common and ingrained in American culture. Some families may be outraged at anyone trying to change this, since it seems so arbitrary and harmless. I’m not saying you should go running around preschools yelling “SANTA’S FAKE!” But remember, you can still have the traditions without lying to your kids — you can hide Easter eggs around the house or give your child a dollar for a baby tooth. The fun is still there, even if there isn’t any magic involved.
Jay Grafft is a second-year UCSB student.
“So, Timmy, your mom and I have something to tell you.”
“Is this the sex talk? Because we just had this in school, so I don’t-”
“No, Timmy, this is different. We just think that since you’re ten now, you’re old enough to know the truth. So, remember when we told you that magical man from the sky is watching you every moment in order to judge whether you are good or bad? Well, we and everyone else you love and respect told a teensy little fib. He doesn’t really exist.”
“Oh good, I was worried about going to Hell for all that masturbating.”
Poor Timmy, you’re still going to hell for that! Your parents were talking about Santa, obviously. I think that fictions like Santa Claus can actually be a useful tool in one’s education. Our evolutionarily-sculpted brains are belief machines; we are well-adapted to living in groups and learning from one another’s mistakes. The result of this is that humans are gullible, especially when it comes to authority figures.
If a kid figures out the Santa Sham on his or her own, it’s probably the most in-depth investigation they’ve ever done. Discovering that there is an enormous conspiracy of adults all over the world conspiring to deceive children as to the existence of an all-knowing, all-judging and all-punishing/rewarding man from the sky (named Santa) might just open a kid’s eyes. Perhaps the best way to teach a kid about lies is to lie to them.
Connor Oakes is a fourth-year political science major.