Question of the Week:
My daughter just lost her first tooth, so I need to know: do Jews believe in the Tooth Fairy? It seems wrong to lie to kids and pretend a fairy gave them money for their tooth. Should I just be up front and give her the money myself instead of creating false beliefs?
This is certainly not a Jewish thing. But I wouldn't call it a lie. It's more like a childish game of imagination. I doubt many kids have been damaged by the discovery that there is no fairy sneaking into their bedrooms at night. And they probably think that it's their parents who are being duped as they pocket the cash.
But there is a potential danger to the Tooth Fairy myth. It rewards children for doing nothing. Losing a tooth is a natural process that requires no effort on the part of the child. They have achieved nothing more than a bit of wobbling, and then you pay them for it. To reward a child for something that will happen anyway is a waste of the incentive power of money.
Even worse, it promotes the dangerous belief that you can get money for nothing. That is far more harmful for a child's future than believing in the Tooth Fairy. I have yet to meet an adult that still thinks fairies put money under pillows, but I certainly know some who still think the world owes them a free ride.
Better reward children for good behaviour, and teach them that hard work pays. When a child does something unnatural and difficult, like sharing their favourite toys even when they don't want to or cleaning up after themselves without being told, that warrants a little deposit under the pillow.
And if you want to capture their imagination, tell them some authentic Jewish wisdom: For every good deed you do, an angel is created to protect you. And every time you hold back from doing the wrong thing, G-d's light shines on you.
It's easy to lose a tooth. It's much harder to lose a bad habit. But good deeds create good energy. And self-control makes you stronger. That's no fairy tale.