My Son the Storyteller

Posted on | February 9, 2012 | 11 Comments

For a while now, when I ask J about his day at school, he tells me what toys he played with and which friends were there.  And then he says “I hit Emma. I knocked Emma over. I got time out” or some variance involving hitting other children or pulling their hair.  Finally, I asked his teachers if this was causing a problem. I swallowed my pride and asked her if my son was a bully.

She looked at me, rather confused, and informed me that my son almost never hits and when he does, it’s in response to someone who hits him. 

“The only problem we have with J,” she told me with a smile, “is that… well… he argues with us all the time.”

::cue sheepish grin:: I have no idea where he gets that from.

But back to the point… my son has entered the age of “storytelling.”  I hesitate to call it straight up lying because he’s two… but you know what I mean. 

Case in point: This morning we snuggled together on the sofa and watched Little Einsteins before school.  The morning was completely without incident; we had cereal bars and juice/coffee, and snuggled and then we were out the door.  On the way to school, he was very quiet.  Finally, as we pulled into the daycare parking lot, I asked him what was wrong.

“I sad.” He said, not looking at me.

“What made you sad?” (All questions must be formed into “what” questions and not “why” questions because he doesn’t quite understand “why” just yet.)

“Mommy.”

??? 

“What did mommy do that made you sad?”

“You put me in time out this morning and I cried.”

?????????????????????????????????????

Nope.  Sorry.  None of that happened.  There were no tears.  There was no time out.  There was nothing sad in our morning.  It’s kind of funny…

And kind of not.

Because ultimately, it lead me to think about bigger and scarier things… how do you teach your kid how to tell the truth?  How do you encourage his creativity in making stories and exploring imagination while still instilling an understanding of “this is what really happened?”  It’s no big deal if he tells his teacher that mommy put him in time out, even if it’s not true.  But what happens when he decides to tell someone that mommy hits him? Or that daddy hurts him? Or that anyone does anything that they shouldn’t and didn’t do?

He’s only two.  He’s creative and I love that.  And I want to raise a son who tells stories in all the best ways.

But I also want to raise a son who knows the truth and stands by it.  And at two, I’m not sure how to start that conversation.

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  • Danielle Burris

    If you figure out a way to have this conversation and it “stick” with them and make sense, please share! I’m going through the exact same thing with my twin girls who are 3. And, I have the exact same worries as you! Creativity is a wonderful gift, but I just pray they don’t get too creative!

    • Law Momma

      I will!! So far, nothing works.

  • Mae

    I was talking to a friend about this just yesterday, because my 3 year old lies all the time. It’s not intentional or malicious, I think it’s a combination of development (their sense of time and the way their brains store memories right now are kind of like those of a drunk college kid on an acid trip. Which is probably really confusing for them!) and lack of communication and social skills needed to TELL you what they’re saying is a story or a memory from another time. We’ve taken to starting clarifying conversations with piper when these come up. For example “did that time out happen today, or are you telling mommy about the time out you had yesterday when you threw your breakfast on the floor?” because it helps her link the event she’s remembering with the when that comes easily for us but that she struggles to recall. Also, we’ve noticed she’s answering “yes” to people when they ask a question almost automatically lately. I think it’s a people pleasing thing? And we’re working on that too, with similar clarifying conversations including “why it’s important to answer honestly” and also “it’s ok to say no” nuggets thrown in. Toddlers = hard work!

    • Lawmomma77

      I have totally wondered if maybe he was just telling me about something that happened once but couldn’t distinguish when it happened. Makes total sense.

      • http://www.facebook.com/HeatherGriffittsClark Heather Griffitts Clark

        I’d be willing to be that’s what he was doing. My 3 year old still talks about things that happened at day care weeks ago as if it happened yesterday. Good idea on the clarifying questions.

  • http://mom2tomtom.wordpress.com/ Momalegal

    My son totally went through that at 2. He told some really great stories about getting in trouble & running through the hall at daycare & that we had a pool, etc. I used to have to ask his teachers if “x” really happened. All the time. I understand the concern if he tells people that bad things happened, which didn’t. But I think a lot of people understand that they make stuff up and have difficulty with the concept of time at this age.

    This is also about the time my son came up with his imaginary friends, which he still has very detailed and interesting conversations and activities with. He’s 4 1/2 and they show no signs of going away! (My problem is when he blames things on his imaginary friends or they tell him to do stuff that gets him in trouble. Ugh.) He also still gets confused about what happened in the AM before nap and what happened yesterday.

  • http://twitter.com/MomMadeItLookEZ Jennifer Williams

    All kids do this. If I know he is “story telling” then I remind him/her it is important to tell the truth. If it is about hitting, etc, I remind him/her that it isn’t very nice to hit (or whatever), and that it is always important to tell the truth. Eventually they get it. I hope.

  • http://twitter.com/happywrkgmom Angie

    My son does that type of thing too. At this age (2 1/2) I agree he is still too small to really understand truth and lies. So when I hear him say something like you did, we turn it into a “you’re silly!” game. I think he’s just stretching his imagination, and it’s perfectly healthy.

    I have no idea how I’m going to handle the older years when truth/lies become more than a game. God help us all then!

  • http://liberatingworkingmoms.com/ Tracy @Liberating Working Moms

    This one time I wrote a long comment for you, and then I clicked something and was directed off your page. Sigh. But in summary…this is EXACTLY what we are going through with Abby. Tonight at dinner she told me she had water up her nose, and then made a fake “I’m hurt” face. It’s cute, but you do bring up a good point…totally need to start talking to them about truth and lies. Two year olds are pretty darn smart.

  • Bjhamill

    Totally normal. Little kids make things up. It’s not lying. They’re figuring out that can tell stories so they do. It’s an amazing thing to figure out, yes? You can carve your own “truth”. Very powerful. Also, many times they’re confounding multiple events over the course of several days or weeks. And they “remember” something all over again, but totally altered. Lying requires a malicious intent. Telling your friends your grandpa came over and took you on a rocket ship while mommy made brownies for dinner ( we have neither a grandpa nor a rocket, and I SWEAR I’ve never let them have brownies for dinner) isn’t a lie, it’s a story. Kids can also really convince themselves of things, magically impossible things, and be absolutely certain they happened. For REAL! They live in a world that includes tooth fairies and monsters and cars that emote and trains that talk. How do you compete with that? A grandpa that takes you on a rocket. And don’t feel bad about asking teachers or daycare providers when a story seems really crazy: ALL kids do this, and they’ve had to answer questions like that before. Don’t make to much of this. It goes on for years and you’re just at the beginning.

  • Mary

    My son’s pediatrician had some good advice on this. Deal with the issue if he is lying to prevent getting in trouble, but otherwise ignore it. Kids have difficulty separating fantasy from reality until about age 5, so we have years of confusion ahead of us!

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    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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  • I'm a divorced, single mom to a pre-schooler, a full-time attorney, and a semi-reluctant vegetarian. I work hard and when given the chance, I play hard... but I'm almost never given the chance.

    It's possible that I never outgrew 7th grade mentality, as I still laugh when anyone says anything that can be remotely construed as sexual. Let's face it, if you're not down with "That's what s/he said" at the end of almost any sentence, we're probably not going to get along all that well.

    I drink more than I should, I run more than I should, and I laugh as much as I can. So I'm pretty much winning at life.

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