Monday, December 12, 2016

Liar, Liar, Pants-on-Fire (part 2)

Q: My preschooler has started making up all kinds of stories. From things that happened when he was in school ("There was a clown today." "So-and-so's mommy had a baby" - so embarrassing when I wished so-and-so's family congratulations and they had no idea what I was talking about!) to things that happen at home ("my toys colored on the wall, not me"). Why is he lying and what can I do about it?

A: Preschoolers don't yet have a solid handle on what is true and what is not. They're still trying to grasp it themselves, and they certainly aren't trying to be malicious when they make up stories. There is a fine line for little ones between what they remember happening and what they imagine or wish might have happened, and they are not clear on where that line is drawn.

When your child colors on the wall, try to focus on the real issue - "In this house we only color on paper" - and not on asking how the mess happened. (Asking "Did you color on the wall?" is just inviting your child to say "no, of course not.")

When your child fantasizes about a clown coming to visit his classroom, this is something that really did happen... in his imagination. Engage him in conversation to help activate this imagination, which is a great tool that is worth developing. But steer him in the direction of "wouldn't it be nice if a clown came to school? What would you like to see a clown do? Who else would it be fun to have visit you at school?" so that he starts to be able to differentiate between fact and fiction.

Telling "what if" stories is great for exercising imagination and it's also a great way to spend quality time with your preschooler. You can even branch out into playing a fact-or-fiction game with him. Tell him two things that "happened" to you today and have him guess which one is real and which one is pretend. Then have him tell you two things that "happened" to him.

Don't worry that your preschooler is lying to you. He's just trying to figure out what's what in this big, confusing world of ours. Talking to him and playing with him can help him understand not only the difference between fact and fiction, but also appropriate ways to interact with others (i.e. telling the truth).

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