E and V have started to show interest in pretend play and have developed a bit of imagination. The other day V slipped off their Pikler triangle. When I asked her about it, so that I could help her navigate her emotions, the situation in general and problem-solve, E began to tell me this story about how our dog climbed the Pikler the day before and fell. The story was rather long and quite detailed.
My initial reaction was ‘oh my gosh, my three-year-old lying to me, and if she is starting now what does that mean for the future!?’ But then the reminder that my child is three. She doesn’t fully understand what she’s doing and the potential impact.
I’m really cautious when it comes to my children and making sure that our home is one where honesty is safe. I always say, “The moment you begin punishing a child when they are honest is the moment they stop being honest.” This is because in their eyes they aren’t being punished for the action we consider to be wrong, but rather for the action they just did, which was them being honest.
We always make sure to address the behaviour, aiming to be mindful and address it appropriately, as parents who practice gentle and respectful parenting–always ensuring no guilt is felt about telling the truth.
So when E was telling me that story, using her powerful imagination, I wanted to be mindful of what I said. I didn’t want to say something that made her feel that her imagination was something that was bad when it’s actually rather wonderful–something I wish I had such a gift in. The most important thing was to make sure that she understood the difference between her imagination and reality.
After E was finished telling me her tale I said that was quite an eventful story and that she has an amazing imagination. Using the word ‘story’ as she’s familiar with stories that we read in books and how we talk about fiction and non-fiction–hence making a connection to something she already understood. I asked if she knew that Kaida couldn’t really climb the Pikler and if she knew why. We then made sure to discuss feelings about our pets getting insured and such. This was likely brought up by the recent passing of my Grandmother’s dog, so I wanted to make sure we addressed any concerns that may have been represented in the story she was telling me.
Does every toddler story need to be given such in-depth discussions? Maybe not, but right now I really want to begin laying that foundation so I don’t have a repeat of a child I once cared for who had such a difficult job distinguishing between fact and fiction, right and wrong, that as a teen every word needs to be questioned.
Do toddler and young child stories ever concern you?