When young children tell tall tales


Parents only need to worry about their child telling tales once they hit five or six years of age as they are unable to distinguish between truth and fiction before then. — dpa

Young children are great storytellers.

"John fell down at nursery school today and an ambulance with a siren and lights came and got him!" they might say.

Or "I met three girls at the playground and now I'm staying overnight with one."

It won't take much inquiry to find out intriguing stories like these often prove untrue, as many young children have a lively imagination and are extremely creative in making things up.

To what extent should parents let this pass and when is it advisable to say something?

Parents should play along at first and show interest in the stories, says Dana Mundt, an child guidance counsellor in Germany.

"They'll learn a lot about what's going on in their children's minds and how they see the world."

There's no reason to worry when children's stories turn out to be less than fully factual, according to Mundt, who says it's a sign of healthy child development because kids learn empathy, along with how the world works, through role-playing games and make-believe stories.

Parents should also bear in mind that it takes not only imagination and intelligence to invent stories, but also quite a bit of language skill, she points out.

Mundt knows from her counselling experience that many parents are alarmed if they think their child is an accomplished liar.

But lecturing the child is often counterproductive, she says, explaining it could lead to increased untruth-telling out of fear of punishment.

And even if parents aren't sure whether a story really happened, Mundt says they should give the child the benefit of the doubt.

When children are very young, even imaginary things seem real to them.

Parents can nevertheless ask the child when something about a story strikes them as odd.

Generally speaking, children under three years of age, and sometimes as old as four, can't always tell the difference between truth and fiction.

Not until they're around five or six years old, do they better grasp the distinction and can purposely lie to get something they want. – dpa

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