In my experience many people routinely lie to very young children, whether it's small lies to serve a purpose ("No there's no more left so let's put it away") or larger narratives like Santa or the Tooth Fairy.

I read in this question that children are ok with the Santa Claus delusion itself because they have "incomplete knowledge" and they like fun make-believe things.

However I notice even with my very young children that people are already saying things which aren't quite true to them, and they sometimes seem to frown or otherwise get confused by it, understandably.

I like the magic of Christmas and fairy tales and everything, but one thing I remember from my own experience of growing up was trying to figure out what was right and truth. As my children grow I would like to find ways to avoid deceiving them, along the lines of 'many children believe that a man called Santa travels around...' and look at it as a legend, hopefully avoiding the direct factual question where possible.

I can endeavour to not lie to them with little every day things, but it seems like it will be difficult to find a good mix of being honest with what I say to my children consistently while still involving them in fantasy and not straying too far from convention/peers/tv/etc..

Also in my brief time as a parent it seems like my kids know when things aren't what someone says they are, even little things, and so I don't want to be undermining their trust in me by doing that just to get a result like putting on their coat or going down for their nap.

I would be really interested in any advice from others.

  • Have you considered responding from a quantum mechanics and theoretical point of view? How do you know in some other universe santa is not real? I do this with my girls often. They usually figure it out that I'm joking or just responding in a way that encourages them to think for themselves or try to figure it out on their own. Like - Dad, how does santa get in our house if we don't have a chimney? According to Schrodinger, he's both inside the house and not inside at the same time... Whaaat? Think about it. Without seeing, how do you know? and that usually sums it all up.
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 21:15

2 Answers 2


In my own opinion, no. I am in the minority I think.

I think we start by teaching what is fiction/fantasy and what is factual.

I never lied about Santa or the tooth fairy -- but we did all those activities including visiting the Santa at the mall. "Santa is an actor, like the mascot at the football game but he's a character that represents Christmas." I am not a Christian and neither were her biological parents, but they did celebrate it as a fun holiday.

I modelled telling the truth every single day, no little white lies.

When she saw a headline about a rape and asked what rape was, she was seven. We sat down and told her, albeit carefully. We used that difficult question to discuss personal space, safety, being careful in new surroundings and which strangers she could probably trust in an emergency.

I often told my kid it was not her business to know something. I never backed down once I made a decision unless I had a very good reason to. Then I admitted it and the reason why it was necessary to change my mind.

So when her very overweight aunt asked, "Do I look fat in this?" I answered, "I think you look wonderful and I like the colour." Later, I explained why we do not answer that kind of question directly or offer a 'truthful but hurtful' opinion for no important reason. When the same aunt asked if she should lose weight, I answered truthfully. "Yes, I think it would be good for your health. Is there any way I can help support you?" Truth with kindness and understanding.

  • 1
    That's a very good insight, and a very good answer. Upvoted. I also take similar paths when dealing with my kids, and this type of modeling for your kids (yes, you are modeling a behavior if you refuse to lie) is one of the best gifts you can give them. Again, a very good answer!
    – T. Sar
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 19:42
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    I often do wonder how people say "believe in this because it is our faith", but then say that the tooth fairy is real. I am trying hard not to step on toes. My Christian mum never said Santa was real. She said he was the face/ the representative of the gift-giving part of the holiday.
    – WRX
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 19:50
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    That's a very good point, and a very good lesson to think about. We did use the Tooth Fairy with our kids, albeit in a somewhat different way that kinda represents our tone at home - "Put your tooth under your pillow and the tooth fairy will give you some money." "Really? A real fairy?" "No, it will be just your mom groaning sleepily".
    – T. Sar
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 20:01
  • Thank you! Could you elaborate on "I often told my kid it was not her business to know something." -- if they ask me a question about life or the world -- it's not their business ... ? Thanks
    – J Jones
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 23:26
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    Things like information on friends or family. I counsel families and sometimes she'd hear the end of a conversation as I walked my client out. She would want to know information on that... and in addition to my rules on confidentiality, it was not her business. She once asked how often my ex/her adoptive dad and I had sex. Sorry kiddo, none of your business!
    – WRX
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 23:47

This is just specific to the Santa question. I'm interested in seeing other answers!

I heard the neatest idea about Santa recently: when the child is old enough (beginning to question Santa or peers are starting to figure out), set aside a special time to tell them "something very important." In this conversation, you reveal that Santa is not just one guy: there are Santas everywhere, and now that they are old enough, they can become a Santa, too! To be a Santa, you pick at least one person and figure out something that they really want, but preferably need. In the example I heard, the boy decided that the elderly neighbor, who frequently came out to get the paper in her robe, could really use a new pair of warm slippers for fetching the paper. You leave the gift 100% anonymously (from Santa). The thing is, to be a Santa, it's important to continue to keep the secret, you let them know.

I think this is a good idea because they have gotten the cultural experience of the magical/fantastical narrative when they are young, but the reveal not only is honest (afterall, it was YOU that was Santa all those years, and now they know for sure), but also helps foster a spirit of giving and hopefully altruism that is a very beautiful gift to give your children, I think.

Just wanted to share. This is how I intend to reveal to my child one day.

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