Should I Tell My Children that Santa Claus Exists?


I tell my young child that Santa Claus is real.

Q1 Analysis

This statement does not violate Q1 unless you are making a special case for Santa Claus that you would not make for some other, equal imaginary things and don’t have a justification for doing so.

Q2 Analysis

This statement does not violate Q2 unless you would condemn another parent for treating imaginary stories as true for similar reasons.


Many things have to be considered before you can decide whether or not it is moral to tell your child that Santa Claus is real. For example, is telling your children that Santa exists a lie? If not, then how is this different from telling other falsehoods? If you argue that it is not a lie because Santa is (for example) "the spirit of giving" and not a physical being, then are you sure your child understands this or are you deceiving your child by not being more clear in the first place? Would you be upset if your child told you a similar story (for example, that she hadn’t lied about playing hooky because she had been "going to school in spirit")?

Is your reason for telling your child that Santa is real defendable? If you’re doing it because it’s fun or because you like how your child acts when believing in Santa, are those sufficient reasons? Would you be deceptive about other things for the same results? If you do it to teach your child a lesson — that people shouldn’t be trusted, for example — are there other ways to teach this lesson without deception? If you are doing it so that your child will have a sense of magic in the world, are you making a special case for Santa or do you also talk about other imaginary things as if they are real? If you assume that your child knows you are just playing a game, are you completely sure? If you are treating Santa as real because your parents did the same, is this sufficient reason?

And, most importantly, are you sure that your reasons for saying Santa is real are actual reasons and not simply justifications for doing something you enjoy?

If you have a defendable reason, then you must decide how much deception is morally allowable. Is simply saying that Santa is real enough? Is it allowable to leave evidence? What would you do when questioned by your child about inconsistent evidence? Would you continue to try to prove Santa’s existence after your child figured out the truth?

If your child learns that you were deceptive about Santa, are you prepared for the possibility that your child may doubt you about other issues (such as religious beliefs or the risks associated with recreational drug use and premarital sex)?

You may think that in some cases it is justified to tell a lie to achieve a good end. In which of these situations would a lie be justified?

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at and See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on August 31, 2010 at 10:30 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

3 Responses

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  1. Written by SKZSKZ
    on September 1, 2010 at 10:25 am
    Reply · Permalink

    What a fantastic reply: caring and thoughtful.

  2. Written by Zach
    on September 2, 2010 at 8:57 am
    Reply · Permalink

    How much does what you lie about hurt or help yourself or others? Some short answers to your situations:

    In the case of the story of George Washington, you help your child by inspiring him to be honest. However, if your child learns that you lied about a story about honesty, might that hurt him/her? In this case, I don’t think there’s any harm as long as you say up front that this is just a story and don’t try to defend its truth once that truth is challenged. Of course, you may want to find another story that is actually true!

    In the case of Santa Claus, by default I would defer to the child’s parents. If you are not comfortable lying about Santa, then dodge the question. However, there could be circumstances where you should tell the child the truth; if, for example, the child was older and his/her parents were going all out to try to keep the Santa story going as long as possible, it might be good for the child’s wellbeing (and probably the parents’) to tell the truth.

    In the case of the panhandler; if you weren’t planning on giving him/her the change, lying doesn’t hurt or help him/her, and helps you, whereas telling the truth hurts him/her and you. However, in the long run, telling the truth probably helps you by making you realize how many times you could have helped people, and perhaps that will encourage you to give more to other people.

    In the case of the electric company, lying helps you, hurts the company. Telling the truth helps the company, hurts you. However, you are the one who has been lax, not the company. So, you should tell the truth.

    In the case of the big project, you should tell the truth for the same reason as above.

    In the case of the jealous man…its tricky because there are three people involved; him, you, and his wife/your friend. But unless you’re hoping to upset their marriage (hurting him and his wife), telling the truth and trying to talk the situation through is the only way to go.

    In the case of the dying grandmother, telling a lie that would comfort her would hurt nobody, whereas telling the truth would probably hurt her. If you can lie, perhaps you should.

    In the case of the brake lights, you should tell the truth because you were negligent. In the long run, it probably helps you too, and certainly helps others on the road!

    In the case of the accident, you should tell the truth for the reason above.

    In the case of the mother’s alibi, who are you helping by lying? Not your mother: if your lie is discovered, she would look very bad; not justice: just because one person cannot give someone an alibi doesn’t mean that someone is guilty in the eyes of the court. Who are you hurting by lying: the entire justice system. If you tell the truth, you hurt nobody, and help everyone.

    In the case of the abusive parents, it is hard to know where the parents’ rights end, and who exactly you will be helping or hurting by your actions. Lying until you know more or until you could get the police involved might be the best option.

    In the case of the customer, I would probably tell the truth: “In all my years here, I’ve never seen a single person being mind-controlled at any MHz!” You could probably rationalize all-out lying, though; it doesn’t hurt anybody, and it helps both the customer and yourself (assuming, of course, that the customer doesn’t know something you don’t about mind-control radiation).

    However, in every case where I am recommending lying, I could see and perhaps even agree with someone who said, ‘The very act of lying, in the long run, helps nobody and hurts everyone by casting a fog of doubt and disbelief around each statement; by lying at all you are just contributing to the perpetuation of this. The only way to go is to tell the complete truth in all situation; in the long run, this is the only way to help others.’ And perhaps that is the right way to go.

  3. Written by me
    on June 9, 2011 at 8:12 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I think Cristmas has really magic to it without lying

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