TRUTHS, LIES AND PRESCHOOLERS
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Some children between the ages of 3-5 may often go through a period of fantasy or exaggeration which to most parents will wave a red flag - Why is my child telling fibs! Don't be alarmed, this is all part of their growth at this age as their creativity is at a high point. They may go on imaginary trips or play as superheroes. Children start to experiment with the fine line between reality and fantasy and explore the boundary between the two. It is only around kindergarten age that a child starts to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Below the age of 5 children can't differentiate between a lie and the truth.
GROUND RULES - Helping young children learn the rules of a household takes time and patience and teaching them through punishment or guilt is not always a successful way to get the message across. It is always a positive way to handle a mistake by stating the rule and then giving a solution to handle the mistake. Eg. Your child has painted on the walls. Perhaps, instead of confronting them with "Did you do this?" Try by explaining that the family doesn't draw on the walls but would rather draw on paper. Then ask the child to help you get the sponge and cleaner and wash it off the walls. Try not to accuse them of something and rather innocently ask "I wonder how this spill got on the floor? Please would you help me clean it up so that we don't slip". Perhaps a high five after the mess has been cleaned up is a softer approach and turns the moment into a teaching opportunity. Unless it's a very serious mistake,or something that would be dangerous to the child, try to use these mishaps to teach a child how to behave in the future.
HAVING FUN WITH TALL TALES - Imaginary play is natural and very active at this stage of their development. It may be a playdate with their imaginary friends, a dash through the house like a superhero or a trip to some elaborate fantasy island. Pointing out that you have never been to this place but it would be such fun to join in the excitement there and then elaborate on the game.
Some children may try to stretch the truth to get your attention. Child and family psychotherapist Fran Walfish, author of The Self-Aware Parent, says you can encourage your child to tell the truth. Suggest to your child: "You have such a wonderful imagination and when you say A, B, or C, I can't always tell if it's your imagination or if it's real. The thing that is most important, that makes a person feel safe between two people, is when we tell the truth and always say what's real.". There is always a fine line in teaching children that honesty is important without restricting their imaginations at this age.
ACCOUNTABILITY - Using language that preschoolers and kindergarteners can understand is important. Trying to be positive, gentle and without judgement you can still bring your child to the point of learning from and owning up to the deed in a nice way eg. I know it's hard to tell me that you bust the vase but it makes me happy to hear the real way it happened so that I can fix it and you can help me clean it up. It's never a great idea to call a child a liar but instead emphasize that it's important to tell the truth so that you can help fix the problem.
All in all, working with your little one in solving the problems will help them not be fearful of their mistakes and help them to be more responsible about accepting and owning up to the everyday mishaps that are part of their learning experience.
If you have any concerns regarding your child's behaviour, it's always wise to talk to and be advised by your pediatrician.
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