Monday, July 18, 2011

Storytelling or Lying?

“I’m going to have a new baby brother or sister.”

My husband and I nodded and listened as our daughter’s friend, Amy, explained that her mom would soon be going to the hospital to get the baby.  When she left hubby asked “Is her mom pregnant?” I shrugged. She didn’t look like it, but it was possible. As time passed, however, it was obvious that the new baby was just a story.
It didn’t take long to figure out that Amy had a habit of “telling stories”. That’s how her mom described it. “Amy is such a story teller.” The new baby was one of her favourites, but she had no shortage of tall tales. She had our neighbour’s child convinced that her thumb fell off and she had to get a new plastic one. One day she ran home crying because the kids refused to believe that her stuffed toy dog was real and only sleeping.
These stories would be harmless if not for Amy’s insistence that they were absolutely true. Most children have very active imaginations at that age. It is important to let children create and make-believe. It is equally important to make sure they realize the difference between “pretending” and “lying”.
One morning, shortly after we got our new puppy, we met Amy and her mom, Linda, at the bus stop. Amy started in to tell us about the new puppy she was getting. Linda said nothing, but winked at me over her daughter’s head. It was obvious that Amy was spinning another one of her “stories” and I was to play along. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Linda to gently tell her daughter that making up stories is ok, as long as you don’t lead people to believe them to be true. It could be done in a way to spare the child the embarrassment of being caught in a lie. “That’s a good make-believe dog! If I were going to have a dog it would have brown spots all over and a fluffy tail.”
Linda’s reluctance to address her daughter’s habit did not help her child. While her stories may have seemed harmless, they were detrimental to her relationships with other children. Kids don’t like to be fooled, and they won’t play along the way adults sometimes will. It was also difficult for Amy when the children didn’t believe her.  
Young imaginations are a beautiful thing, but sometimes kids need a little help reining them in. Telling stories is a wonderful talent to cultivate, and helping children develop a healthy imagination is fun, not only for kids, but for everyone. 

1 comment:

Laurita said...

As a storyteller, I don't like being grouped in with "liars". Still it's hard to brand a child with that title, especially if he or she has not been told the difference. You make some really good points. I feel bad for the little girl.