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kat_eden
kat_eden , Parent asks:
Q:

How do I encourage my son's beautiful imagination while discouraging lying?

My 4 1/2 year old son has an amazing imagination. He and his brother spend hours playing elaborate and wonderful imagination games in our house and yard. I love it.

However, recently he's also started telling a few lies. One day last week after camp he told me that the playground he created during art time won a prize for being the best one in the class. I later learned there hadn't even been a competition!

So, when he rides up to me on a stick horse and tells me he's a knight who has just saved the entire kingdom from a dragon, I congratulate him (although it's technically untrue). Yet when he tells me he won a fictional competition I scold him for lying.

How do I help him understand the difference between good made up stories and bad ones? I don't want to squelch the good to stop the bad.

Thanks!
In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Boys Town National Hotline
Jun 29, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

It's wonderful to hear from parents that are encouraging their kids to spend hours playing outside using their imagination rather than playing video games inside.  Your child sounds very creative and fun!  Children learn significantly through play, so it's always a great idea to encourage them to play, use their imagination, and pretend.  You pose a great question as to where to draw the line between using ones imagination and lying.  

Take some time to sit down with your child and explain the difference between pretending and lying.  Using kid friendly vocabulary, explain that making up people, situations, and places is ok when they are playing at home, on the playground, or at a friends house.  However, when talking to adults about something serious, or at school during class time it's important not to pretend or tell fibs.  Give them a few "real life" exmples of what a lie is, and what using your imagination is.  Tell them about a time when you told a fib or lie and what the consequences were for you.  Then ask them to give you an example of a lie and an example of pretend playing so you know they understand the difference between the two.  Also explain that if they continue to lie they will earn a consequence each time.  If you become aware of certain situations in which they have been lying address it with them and follow that with a consequence.  Also, give them praise for times that you see them using their imagination in appropriate ways.  They will learn through simple behaviorism when it is ok to pretend and when it's not.  

Keep enjoying the fun you and your child are having and encourage lots of creative play!!

Boys Town National Hotline
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educator_with_a_heart
Jun 26, 2009
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Best Answer!

what's this?
from a fellow member
I think that you post an important question that many parents can relate to. First off, I think it's wonderful that you encourage your child's imagination and I applaud you for approaching the issue of lying carefully. The link I have attached is a wonderful discussion of helping understand the reasons behind the lying. Perhaps your child is trying to impress you or make himself feel more special by creating stories of winning awards. You could help him understand that he doesn't have to win awards for you to appreciate his wonderful talents.  A child of his age can understand the difference between fantasy and reality when it comes to the topics you are discussing, so you might play a game with him where he has to identify, which is true and which is a lie. Approaching the issue in a playful way will get you more information and help your child learn. Then as your child demonstrates that he understands the differences between truth and lying, you can emphasize the importance of truth in maintaining trust. Good luck. Hope this helps!
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Additional Answers (3)

Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
Hello,
First of all, I think this is normal. My daughter did the same thing. In all honesty, I think it is a stage. She does not lie or exaggerate the truth anymore. She just grew out of it. However, when she did make up the stories and sometimes I knew because she would get carried about with it. I started to tell her stories. A long time ago, folklore and oral story telling was the thing to do. Children didn't learn to read a book or write, they learned through story telling.

Let's face it, everyone likes to hear a good story. You may want to have a story time where he can make up his own story and you can tell him one. But make sure you let him know it is "story time", a time to make up his own stories. This way he can use his imagination at that time of the day rather than blend it in with reality.

Another idea, is to buy a book on lies and what they mean. My thoughts are that he is not intentionally lying to you, but its rather a stage in growth some kids go through.
I posted some books that may interest you on folklore and then some on "lies".
Good Luck :)

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Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
This one too...

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dmillerteach
dmillerteach , Child Professional, School Administrator, Teacher writes:
Another great resource that explains lying in context of your son's developmental stage is:

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