November and December, 2016. As an expert in child development, Professor Deborah Best is often asked by the media to comment on topics related to children and families. In the last couple of weeks, requests have centered on how to talk to children about the two men who are currently the subject of much conversation and controversy: President-elect Donald Trump and Santa Claus. It’s clear why there may be a lot of conversation about these two….and why there is controversy about the election…..but what’s so controversial about Santa Claus?
Santa. It turns out that a paper entitled “A wonderful lie” was recently published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry suggesting that children’s trust in their parents (SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU’RE UNDER 10 years old…stop reading now) is undermined by the myth of Santa. In this paper, Christopher Boyle, an author of the paper and professor at University of Exeter suggests that the “morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned.” CBS News gathered some expert opinions on this question, including the opinion of Dr. Best CBS News What parents should tell
Dr. Best notes that belief in magic and make-believe is an important part of young children’s lives and that it can play an important role in development. She acknowledges that there may be some effects when a child learns the reality of SC, but that this is more likely to be a sense of disappointment rather than anger, as was suggested by the Lancet paper. However, she did agree with the authors of the paper on one point: Using Santa as a threat to control behavior is bad parent parenting!
Trump. A few weeks earlier, Dr. Best was among a number of psychologists who were asked to comment to the The Huffington Post on how parents should discuss issues made salient by the presidential election. Given her expertise in the development of gender stereotypes in young children, Professor Best discussed the importance of teaching kids about diversity. She made mention of the famous blue eyes-brown eyes classroom study and made the point that it’s important to address issues of bigotry and racism early. She also discussed the importance of maintaining a zero-tolerance rule on bullying and being a good role model for our children. Advice to parents