Kids in a kitchen could be scary, not to mention messy! But it doesn't have to be. The experience could be extremely educational and also very fun.
In addition, it's an excellent time to teach and review with them some words in your target language. Don't be afraid of the mess and enjoy this great quality time activity. Here are a few tips to make it easier, more educational and safer.
Tips for parents:
To continue the fun outside of the kitchen, we recommend the “Foods in my Plate” educational kit. Check it out!
Dar no solo nos hace sentir mejor, sino que también nos hace mejores seres humanos. Nuestros niños ya están hechos para dar a los demás. Solo tenemos que guiarlos.
A muchos de nosotros nos enseñaron a dar y compartir cuando éramos pequeños, y por eso queremos enseñarles lo mismo a nuestros hijos. ¿Por qué? Probablemente porque es lo correcto, lo opuesto al egoísmo, es buen karma, etc. En el meollo de esta sabiduría tradicional está la premisa de que la empatía (un gran impulsor de la conducta generosa8) es un elemento clave de la inteligencia emocional (puede que ustedes hayan oído hablar de IE). ¿Y queremos promover el desarrollo de la inteligencia emocional en nuestros hijos? Sí: la inteligencia emocional es la capacidad de identificar y manejar nuestras propias emociones y las emociones de los demás9, y "la investigación ha demostrado que la inteligencia emocional o EQ" predice más del 54% de la variación en el éxito (relaciones, efectividad, salud, calidad de vida) ".10
Entonces queremos que nuestros hijos sean empáticos y “den” a los demás ... pero ¿y si la naturaleza ya tuviera una forma de lograrlo? Pues así es. En efecto “dar” nos hace (a niños y adultos por igual) sentir mejor. Investigadores midieron la actividad de algo llamado el sistema de recompensa mesolímbico2 en el cerebro (actividad que aumenta cuando recibimos recompensas positivas) y vieron una actividad mayor cuando las personas donaban a obras benéficas que cuando recibían dinero: "la alegría de dar regalos puede eclipsar la de ser su receptor "2.
Mejor todavía: nuestros niños ya vienen hechos para dar. Estudios1 sugieren que comportamientos de "compartir” en niños de edad preescolar (y específicamente los comportamientos espontáneos) pueden estar relacionados con su propio razonamiento empático rudimentario (en vez de fuerzas externas), en otras palabras, su propia brújula moral. Además, la investigación4 muestra que la frecuencia del comportamiento prosocial en niños pequeños no está relacionada con su edad o género, lo que sugiere que no hay en juego "influencias de socialización".4 Algunos teorizan que el ya estar hechos para ser generosos resulta en una ventaja de supervivencia colectiva2: "al nivel más alto, es una estrategia cooperativa de alto rendimiento ... incluso en la ausencia de alguna ganancia potencial aparente ".2
Y aunque parece haber amplia evidencia de que dar generosamente es más gratificante que recibir, a varios niveles, "desde lo neuronal, a lo personal, a lo social"2, los beneficios de dar no se limitan a cómo nos sentimos. Estudios sugieren que "existe una correlación fuerte entre el bienestar, la felicidad, la salud y la longevidad de las personas que son compasivas emocionalmente y en su conducta".3 Esto es sorprendente, pero resulta que las personas generosas en realidad son más saludables y viven más tiempo.
Está claro entonces que nuestra misión como padres y responsables debería ser la de guiar a nuestros pequeños a que simplemente descubran el gozo de dar (que ya llevan consigo) y que así vivan vidas más felices, saludables y exitosas. Aquí están nuestros mejores 10 consejos de cómo hacerlo.
1) Haz una conexión con los sentimientos de los demás
Alienta la generosidad haciendo una conexión. Háblales de lo felices, emocionados y afortunados que son de tener muchos juguetes y de que las familias de algunos niños no pueden. Pregúntales si desean que otros niños también fueran tan felices.5
2) Mantén una mentalidad de guía
Algunos niños son naturalmente más generosos que otros. "No pienses ni proyectes ideas negativas sobre el hecho de que tu niño no sea una persona ‘naturalmente’ compasiva, sino enfócate en oportunidades para ayudarlo a convertirse en una".5
3) Da opciones
Hay muchas maneras de dar. Explica en términos sencillos un puñado de opciones y déjalos decidir. Algunas ideas pueden ser recolectar para bancos de alimentos, o adoptar a un pariente anciano a quien tu niño le pueda hacer tarjetas o traer alimentos.5
4) No se trata solo de "juguetes"
Habla con tu niño sobre parientes, vecinos, conductores de autobuses o maestros que apreciarían que los recuerden y alienta a tu niño a crear su propia expresión de dar. "Tu niño puede tener un talento que se pueda compartir: leer una historia o tocar un instrumento musical en persona, o mediante un video para que un vecino o familiar lo disfrute".5
5) Respalda el proyecto
Ir a una tienda de juguetes con otros niños en mente puede ser una gran experiencia. Le permite a tu niño ponerse en el lugar de otra persona y pensar en lo que pueda querer.5
6) Habla sobre tus propios esfuerzos
Cuéntale a tu niño lo que haces personalmente (o las organizaciones a las que apoyas o en las que participas) para ayudarle a personas necesitadas. Hazle saber a tu niño lo bien que te sentiste acerca de hacer esa contribución.5
7) Regala ropa y juguetes viejos a otros niños necesitados.
Explícale a tu niño que ya no los usará y que otros niños los necesitan. Habla sobre las razones por las que otros niños no tienen tanto.6
8) Modela generosidad
Deja que tu compartir con otros se note. Comparte con tus niños y hazles saber que estás compartiendo. Comparte tu propio tiempo de manera justa. "Trata de ser un padre ‘con igualdad de oportunidades’ tanto como sea posible, mientras les enseñas a tus niños que otros factores influencian la vida cotidiana".7
Juega "Compartir a Papá / Mamá". Por ejemplo, coloca al niño de dos años en una rodilla y al de cuatro años en la otra para enseñarles a los dos niños a compartir su persona especial.7
10) Protege los intereses de tu niño mientras le enseñas a compartir
Respeta el apego de tu niño a ciertas cosas, mientras lo guías a que sea generoso. "Es normal que un niño sea egoísta con algunos juguetes y generoso con los demás. Guarda el juguete preciado. Alienta a tu niño a compartir ".7
Feliz Bondad a todos!
(1) Eisenberg-Berg, Nancy and Michael Hand, “The Relationship of Preschoolers' Reasoning about Prosocial Moral Conflicts to Prosocial Behavior”, June 1979, Child Development Vol. 50, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1129410
(2) Konnikova, Maria, “The Psychology Behind Gift-Giving and Generosity”, January 4, 2012, Scientific American, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/literally-psyched/the-psychology-behind-gift-giving-and-generosity/
(3) Post,Stephen G., “Altruism, Happiness, and Health: It’s Good to Be Good”, 2005, International Journal of Behavioral Medicine - Vol. 12, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/Post-AltruismHappinessHealth.pdf15901215
(4) Yarrow, Marian, Radke Carolyn Zahn Waxler, David Barrett, Jean Darby, Robert King, Marilyn Pickett and Judith Smith, “Dimensions and Correlates of Prosocial Behavior in Young Children”, March 1976, Child Development Vol. 47, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1128290
(5) Chansky,Tamar, “How to Teach Your Child the Joy of Giving, Not Just Getting, At the Holidays”, December16, 2014, hunningtonpost.com, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamar-chansky/how-to-teach-your-child-the-joy-of-giving_b_6323254.html
(6) Coffey,Laura T., ”Kindness in action: 5 ways to teach kids to give back, serve others”, Nov. 20, 2015, today.com, https://www.today.com/parents/kindness-action-5-ways-teach-kids-give-back-serve-others-t57181
(7) Sears, Bill, “11 Ways to Teach Your Child to Share”, askdrsears.com, https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/discipline-behavior/morals-manners/11-ways-teach-your-child-share
(8) Howard, J. A., & Barnett, M. A. “Arousal of empathy and subsequent generosity in young children”, 1981, The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory on Human Development, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00221325.1981.10534147
(9) “What is Emotional Intelligence”, psychologytoday.com, https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/emotional-intelligence
(10) Firestone, Lisa, “Why We Need to Teach Kids Emotional Intelligence”, March 16, 2016, psychologytoday.com, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201603/why-we-need-teach-kids-emotional-intelligence
Is growing up with a dad really important?
A great deal of research suggests that kids who grew up without a father are worse off than those who did have a loving father. However, good fatherhood has less to do with male role models, and everything to do with what we do and share with our children.
The What, Why, When and How
With our daughter getting ready to go to Kindergarten this year, we have shared on the usual parents’ paranoia around “Kindergarten Readiness”. Some of the readers, who might be already on the same boat, would agree that there is not enough time to even read all there is to learn about Kindergarten Readiness – meanwhile there are diametrically opposing points of view in terms of its actual usefulness. Nonetheless, our kids will go to school and the “system” does indeed assess our kids’ readiness for Kindergarten. That’s a fact.
So what is Kindergarten readiness? There is no single or simple factor determining if a child is ready for kindergarten. The kid’s ability to think logically, speak clearly, and interact well with other children and adults are all crucial, as well as his/her level of physical development.1 Depending on where you live, around the age of five, your child may or may not be assessed via a standardized test. The guidance from the U.S. Department of Education is that such tests are to be used to "provide information to help close the school readiness gap at kindergarten entry, to inform instruction in the early elementary school grades, and to notify parents about their children's status and involve them in decisions about their children's education. [They] should not be used to prevent children's entry into kindergarten or as a single measure for high-stakes decisions."7 Let’s look at the application.
Take for example the State of California, where the assessment will have five focus domains: approaches to learning; social and emotional development; language and literacy development; cognition; and physical development-health.3 So, here’s the thing, if the assessment aims at showing a “gap” and parents don’t want to see any gap, then both parents and pre-K schools are very motivated to prepare the children, and Kindergarten schools are very motivated to close the gap – which is all good – but what this may mean for our kids, is more focus to learn “content” and less focus on play. More specifically, some argue that because preschool teachers have this pressure (of the assessment), “they tend not to use play-based learning activities and to use worksheets”, instead, and do them repeatedly: not a child-centered approach.3
The concern is that, following this direction at school and at home, children simply have less time for unstructured play. And they need play. Young children learn playing, and research consistently indicates that “imaginative play is the catalyst for social, physical, emotional, and moral development” in young children.2 With guidance, children can use imaginative play to lay groundwork for understanding words and numbers.2 Play also facilitates the growth of kids’ reasoning abilities and language development.2 We should ask ourselves: “Is it about making the child ready for school, or about making the school ready for the child?”2 Why would we be headed down the opposite path? The answer would likely point to “timing”.
Kids in the US likely grow up faster than anywhere else.2 In Finland, which consistently ranks #1 “in assessments of literacy, math, and science, children don’t start formal schooling until age 7—and then they only attend half days”.2 Compared to ours, the children in Finland spend less time overall in school. We expect our children to start kindergarten at five, and to have years of preschool before that – yet again, the Finnish seem to get it right. The answer to when a child is really ready to Kindergarten is clearly not a) five for everyone or b) the sooner the better. Intuitively, the sooner a child starts “school” the faster he/she will learn and hence, success will come faster, etc. – but research indicates otherwise.
While parents feel the ongoing pressure (and peer pressure) to “prepare” a baby’s brain to participate in traditional school-style learning from a very young age, a number of scholars have questioned the wisdom of doing this6, whereby this can even be counterproductive. The thinking is that young children’s brains may not be intellectually ready for the nature of the content. There is indeed disagreement on this, but it has been shown that children show “significantly higher entrance scores if they test when they’re older compared to those who’ve entered kindergarten at the usual age”.6 Does this mean we should wait one year? Maybe, but not necessarily.
Every child is different. In fact, few children are equally competent in all these areas assessed on these tests. Many kids who are further mentally may fall behind emotionally, others who are extremely fit physically may lag in language development.1 Bear in mind also, that social skills are just as important as “academic” skills (such as being able to share and get along with other children in a group, to sit still for a period of time, and to focus on an adult that is speaking to them).4 Sensible parents seeking a healthy balance may opt for pre-schools in the form of Montessori, Waldorf, or others that individualize their curricula to meet each kid’s developmental needs. Also many public school districts provide alternatives to a cookie-cutter educational approach, and there are always private options as well.6 Integrated early child development solutions, such as Kids’ Candor may well complement the development of all required skills in a balanced approach.
Again, there is a huge number of checklists, tests and resources on line, but below are six specific steps parents and caregivers can take to sensibly help prepare their young ones for Kindergarten:
1) Encourage socialization. Support your kid's social development by including him/her group activities, inviting friends to go on outings, play dates, etc. Encourage your child to share (or express) her feelings, practice taking turns, work together with others as part of a group1, and follow simple directions.5
2) Develop routines. Set regular times for your child to eat, play and sleep each day. This will help your little one know what to expect and what's expected from him or her.5 This will also help your child listen to instructions and follow them.1 Try to foster a degree of self-sufficiency while doing this: can she put on her coat, shoes, and go to the bathroom by herself?1
3) Read, rhyme and play games with your child. Make reading and playing a daily family activity.5 As you do this, encourage both, the development of basic skills (such as recognizing letters, numbers, colors and shapes)6, as well the development of fine motor skills (hold a pencil, scissors, etc.).1
4) Reading benefits your child most when it's a shared, interactive experience. Do it together. Don't rely on computer programs that teach kids how to read.5 Encourage him/her to try to "read" a book by telling you a story based on the pictures.1
5) Expose your child to learning opportunities. Look for experiences to broaden your child's horizons, such as the museum, library or community art or science programs.5 In short, stimulate his/her curiosity: “if a child's curiosity is stronger than his fear of the unfamiliar, he will do well in school”.1
6) Talk about kindergarten. Build excitement and reduce your kid’s anxiety by explaining what his/her routine would be like in kindergarten. Attend the school’s open house with your child and show your enthusiasm. If your child's school doesn't offer an open house, call the school to schedule a visit.5
It’s a good question. Parents who lean towards “yes” (different genders = different education) may argue that girls are girls and boys are boys (true), so why not act accordingly. They may also say that this is what they (the parents) know, because this is this how they were educated. Parents who lean towards “no”, see the obvious potential issue with the perpetuation of gender stereotypes, some of which may work against our own kids and society in general, down the road. For example, some view the encouragement of “typically feminine” characteristics such as quietness, obedience, and passivity, as a reason why girls tend to like school better and perform better than boys in the early grades, yet those behaviors may be detrimental for their later success1.
Common sense should tell us that both points of view have merit. The “nature versus nurture” debate certainly plays a role in answering this question: the likely culprit of most of this heated debate may be a confusion between gender differences and gender stereotypes (reflected in gender roles). Gender differences are driven by biological factors, while gender stereotypes are the result of “children acquiring values, motives, and behaviors viewed as appropriate for males and females within a culture”1…so they are learned. Gender differences between the developmental behaviors of little boys and little girls do exist. However, it is important to know that the overlap between the distributions is greater than the differences between them1. Furthermore, outlining the differences does not tell us why they exist1, yet the good news is acknowledging and leveraging these differences can help us improve how we educate our little ones.
Research shows us key differences in developmental and physical traits between little boys and girls. Boys’ brains, for example, develop at a different rate, time, and order than girls’ in the areas of the brain that affect language, spatial memory, and motor skills: the language and fine motor skills areas mature about six years earlier in girls while the areas involved in targeting and spatial memory mature some four years earlier in boys2. Interestingly, boys’ eyes are physically different that girls’, specifically the visual cortices. Boys’ eyes are “drawn to cooler colors such as silver, black, blue, and gray, while girls’ eyes are drawn to textures and warmer colors—red, yellow, and orange”2. Girls hear better than boys, especially in higher ranges, and they also have a more sensitive sense of smell2. Also important is the nervous system: girls’ autonomic system is influenced more by the parasympathetic, while the boys’ sympathetic has a greater influence in the control of autonomic responses. This affects the reaction to threats or confrontations2.
So how do these differences matter in the development and behaviors of our children? Let’s start with girls. In general, girls have more sensory detailed memory storage, better listening skills, and better discrimination among the various tones of voice. They also have a learning advantage, especially in the language arts, and they tend to make fewer impulsive decisions than boys do. Girls tend to multitask better than boys do, with fewer attention span problems and greater ability to make quick transitions between activities3. Girls can discriminate between objects better than boys2. Compared to boys, girls focus more on faces and warm colors2. They can also better explain and describe their feelings2. Relatively speaking, girls do not deal with moderate stress well, and they may feel sick or nauseated when faced with threat and confrontation2. Also, compared to boys, girls show more positive emotions (e.g. happiness) and “internalizing emotions” (e.g., sadness, anxiety, sympathy)4.
Boys, on the other hand, tend to use more of the brain for spatial and mechanical functioning so that makes them want to move objects through space, like balls, model airplanes (…or just their arms and legs). Most boys will experience words and feelings differently than girls do3. They are more likely to be physically impulsive and less likely to sit still and chat with a friend3. Boys brains are structured to compartmentalize learning - thus girls are better at multitasking. When bored, their brains are set to “renew, recharge, and reorient by entering what neurologists call a rest state” (e.g. the boy in the back whose eyes are drifting toward sleep)3. Boys’ brains are better suited for symbols, abstractions, diagrams and pictures than for words3. They locate objects better than girls2, but find it difficult to talk about feelings2. Boys focus on movement and cold colors2. They deal with moderate stress relatively well and may “feel excited when faced with threat and confrontation”2. Also, compared to girls, boys show more externalizing emotions (e.g., anger)4.
Fine. But how can we leverage this knowledge to better engage our children while combating stereotypes?
Forget about gender roles and be aware of what really makes them different. Embrace it and use it. Here are some broad tips.
When engaging girls…
When engaging boys…
A final word on children’s gender stereotypes. As parents, we can help reduce them by making gender equality a priority at home. Remember boys and girls are a lot more alike than they different.
Yes, we want our children to learn how to read and write, but believe it or not, that is not an easy task.
Research literature suggests that a good 50 percent of the US children learn to read relatively easily once exposed to formal instruction, but the other half will find it very challenging, and perhaps one of the most difficult skills that they will have to master1. So with that in mind, do we want to make it even more challenging by introducing another language in the mix?
Counter to intuition, the answer is that kids are better off learning literacy in two languages versus one. There are five essential components of early reading skill: phonemic awareness (being able to identify and play with individual sounds in spoken words), phonics (being able to connect the letters with the sounds), vocabulary, reading comprehension and fluency2. Research has shown that dual-language literacy education may well give bilingual children from English-only homes a reading advantage, as they may develop these key components “of successful reading and language ahead of their monolingual peers in a single-language learning context”3.
What is the best approach?
There is no single approach, or philosophy for teaching reading that is equally effective for all children1, but…parents often weigh teaching their children how to read in one language (and then transferring this knowledge over to the other language(s)) versus starting with both languages at once9. While either approach works, research suggests that children coming from languages with a deep orthography (such as English – where words don’t follow a strict sound-to-letter correspondence) may actually get a bilingual reading and language processing advantage from learning in the 50:50 dual-language learning context (both languages at once). Furthermore, findings indicate that the 50:50 dual-language set up - combined with phonological training - may be the optimal and most enduring type of bilingual language learning3.
So when do we get started?
Now. Learning to read is not easy, and success comes largely from developing language and literacy-related skills very early in life1. Reading books to your young ones is early literacy. Children should be involved in reading from the first days of life; small children should be engaged in playing with language through nursery rhymes, storybooks, and writing activities as early as possible1. It turns out that spoken language and literacy are indeed connected, and studies show that children with little exposure to listening to books read aloud “typically start school with poor early literacy skills”4. Obviously, kids in the emergent stage of literacy cannot yet read, write, or spell - maybe they know that writing represents ideas, but it is not until later that they start “to understand that letters represent the sounds they hear in words”8. However, there is little question that during the early stages of speech and language development (the emergent literacy stage) children learn skills that are key to the development of literacy10. So, get started now.
How to go about it?
Three good suggestions:
First is something called Dialogic Reading. Researchers have learned that when the child actively participates in the reading experience, the language gains are greater than when an adult simply reads the book. Dialogic reading encourages the child to become the storyteller over time. Your role is to prompt the child with questions, build on the kid’s responses, and praise his/her efforts to retell the story or name elements from the book4. That is a perfect opportunity to segue into another language – the Kids’ Candor bilingual kits’ reading activities exemplify this.
The second is simply Picture books, but why?5 Picture books help our young ones understand that words convey meaning, way before they are aware of the actual text. Pictures help increase vocabulary, a key element of reading. No reason why this cannot be done in another language simultaneously or alternatively. Picture books also help young children identify colors, shapes, numbers, letters, etc – in short,
they build the background knowledge that is essential to successful reading. Parents should choose books with simple images so that the child can point to objects and learn names6.
The third is building literacy every day7- here are 10 great tips inspired by Pearson Education7. You can alternate key words and/or expressions on a second language for every single one:
Quality is better than quantity. And not working can be more expensive than daycare
The choice of how much time we spend with our young kids versus how much time we, parents, devote to our careers (or making money) is certainly driven by our perception of what is better for our children. Our living circumstances influence it but also, and to a great extent, our beliefs. A mother may well choose to put her career on hold and spend all of her time with her baby, because she believes that is best for her child. Along those lines, many of us would agree with the premise that spending more time with our little ones is a good thing for them – but let’s take a closer look, since it seems recent research upends conventional wisdom on the subject.
Parents in the US are with their children more than any parents in the world1, yet many feel guilty because they don’t think it’s sufficient. This is thought to be caused by a widespread cultural belief that the “time parents, particularly mothers, spend with children is key to ensuring a bright future”1. The fact is that recent research findings suggest the sheer amount of time parents (particularly mothers) spend with their kids (as young as 3) is virtually not related to how children turn out. That’s right: no relationship. And this includes children’s academic achievement, behavior and emotional health.2 A study also showed that mothers’ work hours also don’t matter much at all.
Furthermore, it has been found that parent time can be sometimes harmful to children, that is when we (parents) are stressed, sleep-deprived, guilty and anxious.2 Ironically, such stress and anxiety often stems from parents’ (specially mothers) struggle to juggle work and spending more time with their young ones1. Now bear in mind that this does not suggest it is bad to spend time with your kids. It simply says your kids might not benefit from spending time with you, when you are frustrated.
Others have argued that spending some time away from our kids can actually make us better parents. Why? Well, spending time with someone else (our spouse, partner or a caregiver) can give our kids a fresh perspective and help them become more independent. Along the same lines, as an example, it could teach your kid about individuality (as in you have your own life). Also, spending time in the grown up world as ourselves may re-energize us to jump back into parenting and be thankful for re-uniting, and this can be healthy.3
Now, let’s talk numbers. A usual consideration for a parent gauging to stay at home or paying for childcare is obviously the childcare cost versus the opportunity cost of not earning wages. Often the balance tips to the side of staying at home, simply because childcare is really expensive. Think twice. Each lost year of employment could cost a family more than three times a parent's annual salary, over a lifetime, according to a report from the Center for American Progress.4 This is because the opportunity cost of quitting your job is not just your salary, but the growth of your salary over time.
Let’s not take our eyes off what’s important here, though. It is “quality time” with parents, and not the sheer amount of time spent, that is beneficial to our children. There is little argument that there is NO substitution for quality time spent with your little ones, and research has shown a close relationship between quality parent time and positive outcomes for kids1. So, what is spending “quality time” with your child? Well, it can be reading to your child, simply sharing meals, talking or engaging with them one-on-one1. Here is our selection of the top 5 ideas for spending quality time with our young ones:
FAQ’s: Talking to our children about getting to the truth
Our world seems to be increasingly faced with a blurred view of fact versus fiction (versus opinion) and truth versus lies. Several current events and the advent of the holidays makes the general issue of truth and reality a relevant one, and particularly important, when it comes to our children. All things considered, wouldn’t we want to have a sensible way to approach the conversation with our little ones?
When tackling the subject as a parent, one encounters different flavors of the question of “truth” and “reality”. One of them is about lying to our children, its ethical implications and practical consequences: for example, whether or not we should push falsehoods onto our children about cultural myths (e.g. Easter Bunny) and other societal taboos. Another one is about how we deal with our children lying to us and to others: what our policy should be. A third one, and not the least important, is the question of what is real and what is not.
We hope our answers to the following FAQ’s are helpful. As always we look forward to your comments and/or suggestions and to hear about your best practices:
FAQ#1: The Santa Claus question. It is a lie…so should we not tell it to our children?
While some people take a hard line and advocate that these falsehoods should indeed be exposed to children from an early age, the most accepted approach seems to be where “sharing the world of fantasy characters with our children is not a lie, but rather a playful way of storytelling and connecting as a family to fun events” 2. Some authors even suggest that the process of discovering the truth about such myths on their own may be beneficial to kids4. It is a different story, however, if your kid asks you point blank if Santa is real. Obviously at that point your kid is already asking the right questions – probably time to help him or her discover the truth. Kids need to know they can trust mom and dad to tell them the truth2. In any event, by the age of eight most children will have already let go of these fantasies, but will likely remember fondly the happy years of imagination2.
FAQ#2: What about when bad stuff happens - like the death of someone our kids know or a pet? Should we tell the truth?
Some parents will opt for distorting or omitting facts in order to protect their children from distress. The most accepted view seems to be that creating a story around a real event can make the problem worse. When it comes to death or illness, it is apparently better for children to know the truth, so they understand the behaviors of the adults around them2. Some suggest that children should have some understanding of sickness or death, before it actually affects their own lives. When telling a child that someone has died, make sure the word 'died' is used - children do not understand euphemisms. In the context of facing the realities of our existence, “children do not need protection, they need competent guidance and satisfactory answers to their questions”2.
FAQ#3: We don’t want our children to be liars. How should we react when we catch our little one in a lie?
When your little one lies, remember that this is not necessarily a crisis of morals. Getting outraged is probably not helpful. Telling a lie can be simply your kid's way of getting what he wants. “It also doesn't help to investigate his story like a detective”. Not to say that this should go without sanctions, but you don’t really want to make him feel that he can't be trusted. Some argue that pressuring your child can cause him to withhold more the truth next time3.
We should model the behavior we expect to see in our child. So let’s calm down before doing anything. First of all, convey the message that a behavior — stealing, for instance — is wrong. Then, address why your child lied. Mention consequences that will help the development of conscience – also point out the logical consequences of lying. Tell the story of the boy who cried wolf so often that, when the boy really needed help, nobody came, etc. (you know the story…). When your child changes the story and tells you the truth, express your satisfaction. This will make it easier for your child to tell the truth the next time3.
Some lie busters:
FAQ#4. Is lying normal? Why do children lie?
It is normal. Parents should view lying as a part of our children's emotional and intellectual development. Telling lies doesn't mean our kid will have a life of serious behavioral problems. Studies show that lying plays a positive role in normal development. “Essential human skills — independence, perspective taking, and emotional control — are the same skills that enable children to lie”.3
There is a developmental progression to lying. At the first level (2 and 3 years old), the child wants to achieve a goal or reward by saying something that he knows (or believes) is false. The intention is to affect your behavior — for instance, to avoid punishment or receive a reward.3
Around age 3, wishes and imagination often get mixed up with reality. Sometimes your child will start to tell a story, and then he will just start adding content to match ideas he has in his head. At this stage, children might not consider what you will actually think about either their statement or their intention. So they are pretty bad liars. They may also fail to do obvious things, such as covering their tracks to hide the lie.3
Around age 4, children probably know the difference between lying and telling the truth — and they know lying is wrong. By age 4 or 5, they understand that you will interpret and evaluate a statement in the light of your own existing knowledge.3
FAQ#5: Young kids don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy – when and how does that transition occur?
Babies and young toddlers cannot reliably distinguish between what's real and what's pretend.1 At around two years of age, a child supposedly develops the “brain circuitry” that allows him to hold a block and imagine it's a car, for example.1 “Older toddlers know what's real when they're playing but often ignore it. Fiction is simply more fun”.1
Much of the information that little kids are exposed to is factual, like the names of animals, but obviously some of it is fictional too, such as the existence of the Easter Bunny. Studies have found that by the age of 4, children learn to “use the context in which new information is presented to distinguish between fact and fiction”.5 This is important, because it means they start gauging credibility.
According to research at the University of Texas at Austin, children can distinguish between reality and fantasy, somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5.
FAQ#6: Since young children don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy –how can parents help?
Parents play a very important role in this process. First of all, we ought to be aware of how emotions can influence our children’s fantasy-reality judgments. Studies show that 3-5-year-old children are more likely to believe in positive fictional events compared to negative fictional events “i.e., only positive people and events can exist in the real world”. Along the same lines, they are more likely to believe in information from a “nice” person.6 As parents, we should then focus on shedding a positive light on the things we want our children to hold as real.
One specific area where parents can help, and where children benefit from learning the difference between fantasy and reality is with nighttime fears. Research shows that understanding the difference between fantasy and reality helps children overcome their nighttime (irrational) fears.7
Not unlike with other challenges to reality, children should also be educated about the fictional nature of much of what's on TV and digital.1 But maintaining a good balance is also crucial, so as parents we really need to embrace pretend-play. Ironically, “pretend play lets kids figure out the real world of emotions, relationships, and ideas”.1