Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Santa Claus and Deception
Saturday December 22, 2007

Dear Alice Miller,

My children are 11, 11 and 7 and none of them believe in Santa Claus. Some parents think this is terrible, but my children are very perceptive and began asking questions about things like this very early, and my husband and I told them the truth. We didn't want to tell them lies because we worried that this would make them into people who could be more easily deceived by others. I wonder what is your opinion of this myth for children. I read in one of your books about how you once observed parents, children and a 'Santa Claus' and felt sorry for the children when they were being harrassed and made to feel guilty that they had not been 'good' enough and had not met the needs and expectations of their parents. I was in complete agreement with you when I was reading that and my heart went out to those children. Some parents do not bring up the part of 'being good' in connection with gifts, and I can understand how they might want their children to have the fantasy of believing that Santa Claus is a real person, but I did not feel comfortable with this when my children became old enough to start asking questions because I did not want to tell them any lies just because they were still small. I simply explained to them where the myth came from and told them that people still carry this on today as a tradition and a reason to 'have a party'. (And yes, they also know the truth about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. I couldn't help it -- they asked when they heard the truth about Santa!) Other than that, I don't think Christmas is very different for my children than for anyone else's. They still have gifts and a special meal, just without believing something that is not true. Some have accused my husband and me of 'robbing' our children of having a healthy fantasy and spoiling magical things for them by doing this. I think these parents unconsiously want their children to believe in Santa Claus so they can prime their little minds to accept other falsehoods as well. This would make it easier to keep the children from straying from the family's religion or other beliefs as well and possibly serve to help impair their independence when they grow up. Sometimes I wonder if I think in this way only because my own parents deceived me by trying to cover up abuse and therefor some innocent thing like a Santa seems like a deception that I must protect my children against. I wonder what you think any benefits or harms might be in this tradition of telling children that Santa Claus is real.

AM: As you have read the first chapter of "Banished Knowledge" you may know what I think about this kind of child abuse. It is a way of fooling children to obtain their submission and blind them for realities.

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