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Lies, Truths, and Your Preschooler

Has your preschooler been telling tall tales? Help your child learn to appreciate honesty.
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Laying Down the Ground Rules

If you catch your child drawing on the walls, you may be tempted to confront her: "Are you the one who did this?" Chances are she'll say "no" because she doesn't want to make you mad or get in trouble.

It's better to state what the rule is and offer a solution, Bowers says. For example, "We have a rule in this house that we only draw on paper. So why don't we get some soap and you can help Daddy clean it up."

To avoid accusations, he advocates a Columbo approach, or playing dumb. Within your child's earshot, you can say: "Oh, I wonder how this milk got spilled? It would really be nice if somebody could help me clean it up."

After your kid comes over and helps you, give him a high five for helping out.

"These are teaching opportunities to show your child what they should do in the future," Altmann says. "Unless it's really serious, stay away from punishment and turn it into a learning opportunity."

Superheroes, Disneyland, and Tall Tales

Creativity is at a high point from age 3 to 5, Bowers says.

Imaginary play is part of a child's natural growth and development. You start to see imaginary friends, superhero fantasies, wishful thinking, and talk about places your child has never been, like Disneyland. You can help nurture your child's imagination while teaching him or her the importance of honesty.

Don't worry if your child details a fictitious trip to Disneyland. Simply respond by saying, "Well, you know, we haven't been to Disneyland yet, but if we did go, what would you want to do?"

"Whenever possible, have fun with them," Bowers says. "Join them so they can pursue what's in their imagination."

Preschoolers often 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."

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