The Tooth Fairy

From what I can tell, the Tooth Fairy has at least some purpose.  I don’t remember what I felt when losing my teeth at age 7, but it’s certainly possible that some kids have a negative experience.  The Tooth Fairy seems like a way to improve this experience, because hey, free money!  Who needs a stupid tooth when I can buy candy with this dollar!  (Irony?)

What about Santa?  The fat guy who somehow gets into houses without chimneys – how on earth are parents explaining this part nowadays?  Not that a fat guy could have fit down a chimney in the first place, but maybe kids wouldn’t know that.  In fact, I’ll bet at least one kid has tried to climb up or down a chimney just to see if it’s possible.  But I digress.  Santa appears to have been popularized in our society in order to promote Coca-Cola, I mean, in order to make kids behave.  Be good, or Santa won’t bring you any presents!

My argument here is why can’t it just be “Be good, or Mommy and Daddy won’t buy you any presents*“?  I wonder if there’s a psychological reason why it’s better for behavioural development for there to be some outside party evaluating all this.  And that’s assuming that the use of Santa Claus does in fact help matters (has there been a study done?)

From my education in psychology and pedagogy, external rewards such as presents may be an effective way to improve behaviour in the short term, but decrease the likelihood of good behaviour in the absence of such rewards.  So maybe Santa Claus is worthless after all, and parents should say “We’re getting you presents because we love you, but be nice, because other people matter.”

Back to the Tooth Fairy.  What makes this a good idea?  I wonder if children would accept the idea that their parents would give them money every time they lost a tooth.  I can’t think of anything better at the moment.

I’m done what I wanted to say, but I might as well add that the Easter Bunny is even more useless and unbelievable.  So a rabbit hides eggs all over the place?  Not a chicken?  Okay.  My dad never pulled that wool over our eyes.  He made the egg-hunt like a treasure hunt: each time you found eggs, they came with clues to where the next ones would be.  Love you, Dad.

* Parents referring to themselves in the third person is a topic for another day

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Posted on September 8, 2011, in Science, Thinking Out Loud and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Jeff Flanagan

    I don’t know how useful these things are, but can see parallels in business, where managers often try to make their own managers out to be the bad guy when misleading subordinates, and in religion, where an imaginary authority is invoked by those who actually wield the power over their congregations.

    People seem to be easily manipulated by people who attribute their own actions to a 3rd party.

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