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Encourage imagination or squash lies?

My 3 year old is starting to tell some tall tales. He told his grandma he saw a great white whale in the nearby lake. He has told some whoppers about some small spats at preschool that make it sound like I put him in a Fight Club and has told me all about who is moving in to the big house nextdoor to his school (actually going to be a medical office)

I am pretty clear on if he denies doing something wrong or when he is trying to get out of trouble to discuss lying, but do I feed into his great white whale fantasies and let him run with it or do I squash that as not being the truth too?


Asked by hotelmom123 at 9:22 AM on May. 19, 2011 in Preschoolers (3-4)

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Answers (9)
  • It's a tough line, at least for me.

    I really want to encourage my children in their creativity, but when I ask DD "did you write on the WALL with my DEODORANT?!", that is not the time I want her to say "no there was a monster that crawled in the window and wanted to eat your odor ant but I told him NO! and so he said he was going to write on the walls to get me in trouble and THEN eat the odor ant."

    When they are telling tall tales - not to deceive or get out of trouble, but like the white whale story - I play along. I ask lots of questions that take everything they say at face value, but show I know it is pretend. When I started doing this - and every now and then still - I'll have my DD say "Whales can't talk, mom" or "I'm not really a princess, you know" and I always say something like "I know for REAL they can't, but when we're pretending like in this story they can".

    It seems to make a distinction for the kids.

    Answer by KateDinVA at 9:31 AM on May. 19, 2011

  • When I find myself unsure about one of my kids' perception, I use phrases like "are we going to pretend that whale is out there? Lets pretend that boat gets hit by the whale. Do you see it in your head?" I hope that helps, it sounds like you have a wonderful storyteller though. And you are already working on the lying vs imagination. :-)

    Answer by at 9:33 AM on May. 19, 2011

  • I encourage her creativity. At this stage, I don't think that they are telling lies per se.

    I save the lie speach for things that are true lies...."who broke that" "so-n-so did it" When I know for sure that so-n-so didn't do it, I bring up the subject of lies.

    Answer by Jademom07 at 9:35 AM on May. 19, 2011

  • Tough one. I think you can encourage the imagination without encouraging the lies. Maybe talk about how that is a great STORY. Ask him to tell you more stories. But then discuss the difference between real life and stories. Maybe you could help him write a story about the great white whale.

    Answer by Shaken1976 at 9:32 AM on May. 19, 2011

  • Oh and don't give kids the chance to tell a story. If you know the child "wrote on the wall with deodorant", don't ask if they did it. Ask why they did it and make sure they know it's wrong etc. If you open the door for a child to get out of trouble, guess what, they will go through it. But then you have no one to blame but yourself when they make up a story.

    Answer by at 9:35 AM on May. 19, 2011

  •, I do agree with you, but in that situation it was more of a "I can not believe that you wrote on the wall with deodorant!" that was phrased with a question mark because I could not honestly believe my eyes that that is what had happened.

    I mean, who WRITES on a WALL with DEODORANT?! Lol! And do you know how hard it is to clean off? Man, you can still see traces of it! Haha!

    Although I do ask my kids questions I know the answer to, because otherwise they know I don't know if I ask a question (if that makes sense). And I often precede it with "LittleKate, I know who put lipstick on the dolls. But I need you to say it to me. What happened here?" In our house there are separate punishments for the action, and for not confessing to it.

    Answer by KateDinVA at 9:45 AM on May. 19, 2011

  • The tall tales thing is a normal stage of development in a child of 3 or 4. We always called such stories "Fibber Island" stories and validated them as creative ideas while differentiating them from the truth.

    Answer by Fistandantalus at 11:24 AM on May. 19, 2011

  • encourage creativity but make sure you knw that it doesn't get in the way to play with others or have a normal activity level with others

    Answer by barrerajuls at 4:01 PM on May. 19, 2011

  • I would squash anything that I knew not to be the truth. Imagination is fine as long as you don't tell it to someone else for the truth. Then it becomes a lie. A lie is a spoken untruth, so I would be trying to teach him not to tell anything that was not factual.

    Answer by NannyB. at 9:31 AM on May. 19, 2011