Exaggerated Stories

Updated on January 26, 2009
M.B. asks from Tucson, AZ
15 answers

Ok, I'll try to make this short. My son, almost 7, tends to "make up" stories. In the past, when he was 4, he had an imaginary friend. That was one thing. This is different. Example. He went to the zoo with his grandma on Monday. he was telling us about feeding the giraffe (which he did) but then he went on to tell us about the baby giraffe being born and a baby monkey.... etc. I know he's telling a story but I'm not sure how to approach it. Do I go along with it? Do I ask him if he's fibbing? Do I laugh with him and tell him what a great emagination he has? That was just one example. He does this more and more all the time. I just don't know the best way to handle it.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much! I got a lot of feedbeck on this one! I now know he is not "lying" he's just using his imagination. He has never done this during a time when he is in trouble. He just likes to make his stories a bit more exciting. As for writing it all down, he has already made a few "books" over the past few years and now I can get excited about his "stories" and have him write them down again. I appreciate all of the advice!

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answers from Las Cruces on

There was a great article in the November issue of Parenting magazine that dealt with "fibbing" at different ages - what's normal, what isn't and how to handle it. Some of the kind of stry telling you descirbed is normal and I think you'd find this article helpful.


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answers from Phoenix on

As a teacher, I loved when my first-grade students (5-7 years old) and (5th through 8th grade later in my teaching career) would use their imaginations to create stories. Unfortunately, I found most of my students had too tight a grip on reality to REALLY let themselves go in the fantasy department. Imagination is important in all areas of life. From books, movies and other entertainment to problem solving, imagination is key. "If you can dream it, you can do it." The best and brightest were always good with their imaginations because that's where inquiry becomes reality. Some examples of this are Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, the Wright Brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, and George Washington to name a few. Where would we be without their imaginations, dreams and/or inquiries?

I believe we must encourage each child's imagination to support their thinking skill development. I agree to distinguish between "lying" to avoid consequences for their actions versus "telling" imagined stories, but I also believe that most adults are intelligent enough to distinguish between the two and explain that difference.

An example of encouraging imagination in children came to me when one of my students told me of their younger sibling being picked on for having "an imaginary friend". I asked him why he though the friend didn't exist to which he replied "because no one else can see them". I offered that we can't see love or even wind, but we all accept those things as real. I continued to ask the child if he believed in anything like angels (guardian or otherwise). The student said yes. I asked if the student had "seen" one. He said no. I asked if it was possible that his younger sibling saw something that he didn't. My student reluctantly conceded that it was possible. I asked if it was possible that the sibling's "imaginary friend" could be an angel or something else that only the sibling saw. (Again, just POSSIBLE). My student again reluctantly conceded that it was possible. I replied that most of us had imaginary friends growing up that we eventually "grow out of" and that it was okay to believe that the invisible friend was "imaginary" but then again, maybe it was something "real". The most important part was to believe in the person who believes in the "imaginary friend" because they MAY see something that the rest of us don't. Unfortunately, we all lose sight of the "magic" we believed in growing up too quickly and tend to discount the "stories" of those who "see" things we don't. Maybe, just maybe, we don't know everything there is to know about the world and whether that friend is "real" or "imagined" makes no difference because they are real to the believer. (Adult example = How many of us believe in God while others try to discount or disprove His existence? Is it really any different?) Needless to say, after this discussion, my entire class kept looking for things they may not have noticed before and began not only discussing those things but writing about them. It became a GREAT platform for growth in literacy, public speaking (class presentations), and other life skills, not to mention it helped their observation skills which was very useful in science. (It also became food for thought on a number of levels in the teacher's lounge later in the day.)

All in all, it's simply a matter of how you "look" at things. ;O) I don't see the harm in "believing" and encouraging others to believe. You may feel differently. When asked if she believed in Santa Claus, a sixteen year old student replied that the way she sees it, if she believes and he does exist, she reaps the benefits (gifts). If she believes and he doesn't exist, she was at least a better person for an entire year which benefits her self, family, and community. She concluded by stating that she saw no harm in believing that Santa Claus existed and only good could come out of it, so it was a win-win situation. She then asked how much better off would the world be if EVERYONE "believed" in Santa Claus and other "people" who encourage us to be our best at all times. Needless to say, I believe this child was wise beyond her years as even her teacher had never really thought of it that way.

Anyway, that's my 15 cents and speech on a soapbox. The question now becomes do you see an opportunity of a teachable moment? As always (just like I tell my class), take what you can use and leave the rest.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Yuma on

M. B,
It does no harm to go along with what we adults title or kids as "Imagination"! Ask him questions, have him write these down or even draw pictures. We adults are so quick to judge things we can't actually see as "Make Believe". Remember believing as a child, Santa, tooth fairy, easter bunny etc! As long as there is no harm done build a strong, trusting & fun relationship with him by listening to him & believing! Our kids grow too quick as it is, help keep him young & innocent as long as possible. Don't worry about what everyone else will say or think! I hope this helped. A. G



answers from Albuquerque on

It reminds me of the book "Olivia Saves the Circus" I think you should encourage his imagination and also find time to remind him of the differences between story telling and telling the truth and when each is appropriate.



answers from Tucson on


It is a normal part of childhood to fantasize in this way. Like the other mom said, if it's to get out of trouble, though, then you can do something about it. It's fun to go along with it otherwise, sometimes, just like Carol did.

Sometimes these stories reflect a wish that it had happened, but it's not a lie. You know your son best, and will KNOW when it's a lie as opposed to a fantasy. Laugh with him.



answers from Flagstaff on

Hi M.,
My son did this too when he was young. It was just a phase but we use to laugh and ask him is this a wild story or a for real story? He got the idea it could be both so for a while he really made up some whopper wild stories. When we encouraged the make-up stories he didn't need to streatch the truth any more and just be creative when he needed more attention. At times I would tell him a tall tale wild enough even he could tell it was a whopper, then we could laugh and have fun. He did out grow it finally.
Have fun in all you do. Marlene



answers from Tucson on

Hi M.-
Say, 'Oh, your stories are so excellent; do you want to write them down? Grandma told me you got to feed the giraffe. That is so cool. It sounds like you're interested in babies being born- shall we get some books about that the next time we go to the library? Or what about a movie ?' (at his developmental stage). Then read the books or watch the movie together with appropriate comments from you. It sounds like he needs more of your attention, and is telling you the stories to keep it on himself.

Hope it helps, S.



answers from Tucson on

Wow Carol - that is an awesome idea! After reading M.'s request, I just had to see what others would say because my 7 year old daughter does the same thing! Drives me crazy at how to handle it as well. Good advice! :)



answers from Phoenix on

Funny. Reminds me of when my nephew was about 7, it was during the first week of school after summer had ended and everyone got to stand in front of the class and talk briefly about what they had done over the summer. Well brief was never in my nephews vocabulary and he continued at length and very discriptively told of the safari he had gone on in Africa. It was soooo real his teacher called my sister and wanted to discuss it and see the photographs. ell my sister had to break the news that they had never been out of the US. He had quite the imagination and I am glad that he had the experience of going to Africa for such an eductaion event. Now at 28 years old he travels the world going to different countries when ever he can. i think he will be just fine.



answers from Phoenix on

My diva, 3, makes up stories all the time. She also loves Pinky Dinky Doo, a cartoon in which the lead character makes up stories all the time. Diva will go off on one of her stores, which may start as real, but then the imagination takes over. One time I started playing along with a made up story and she said, just like a Pinky Dinky Doo character, "What happened next in your made up story?" Brilliant! So now I say the same to her when she goes off on her tangent. It's letting her use her imagination, and she feels like mom is playing with her, while at the same time, she's getting the message that mom's on to her. It's been working like a charm.

Goes to show that not ALL TV is bad!



answers from Phoenix on

imaginary friends are no problem. its what the friends do that is. i was told this was a sign of being an only child my kids are 13 yrs apart so they both are like only children. and also that a big imaginations is is a sign of intelligence because they tend to exagerate so much that it takes a lof of thinking to think up this stuff. the problem is when they get older and start outright lying. that isnot good. i went along with the imaginary firend most of the time. execpt when"john" made a mess and didnt cleanup after himslef or when we had to get an extra happy meal for john and he later said he wasnt hungry but that my son could have his toy. after that we gave john and imainary happy meal and he kept the toy. john alos broke a window and john told me that my son did it and it was bad to lie and he would talk to my son about lying my youngest would change his name every once in a while. we never knew what it was. it was cougar, buster, jj, and a bunch of others. it depended on what he was doing. if he was watching a tv show he would call hmslef that and if i called himby his rela name he would no naswer then i would ask him what his name was and he would tell me. he was white power ranger until he went to kindergarten. but they do grow out of it. about the zoo story. i would tell him that you dont feel comfortable with him seeing animals being born just yet and that maybe he shouldnt go to the zoo anymore. i bet he will recant



answers from Albuquerque on

Sounds like he's just using his imagination. I would only worry if he was making up stories to get himself out of trouble or about something that could hurt another person. Maybe tell him that that you appreciate his IMAGINARY stories and that you would like him to start writing down his stories for a book. Maybe he's a future author! Embrace his talent and don't worry unless he starts getting in trouble with his tales. Good luck.



answers from Phoenix on

Hi M.,

Sounds like your son has a great imagination. It is great that you are wondering how to best handle his stories...you want to encourage his expression and his spirit yet not let it lead to "lying". I'm guessing that he just likes to tell stories. Are any of his stories ever hurtful or does he try to cover up things he did? When his stories start crossing the line of straight out not telling the truth so he wont' "get caught", then you would have to take more action; such as discipline and teaching him how to take responsibilty for his actions. Which is something he is hopefully learning now. But as far as his stories, if they are innocent exxagerated versions of what happened just go along with it. You can even say, "wow, that is quite a story." Maybe he will become an amazing writer. Ask him if he would like to make a book? Even if it's just pictures he colors with as many or as little words as he wants to write...or you write what he says. Then put the papers together with staples or ribbon with his special cover he makes. What he is doing is very normal at his age. Unless his stories are bordering our right lying or maliciousness, encourage his gift of storytelling with positive and creative ways to express his imagination, then just go with the flow.

**As a side note to encourage and foster positive and respectful converstation with eachother, use words such as
"Are you being truthful?" instead of "Are you fibbing/lying?" Say that outloud and notice where you feel that in your body when you say each statement. There is a difference isnt't there?
It's the same as when we say, "Please use your gentle hands with the dog." Instead of "dont' hit the dog!", or "please use your inside voices." instead of "don't yell in the house! or you're too loud!"

Perhaps you speak this way to your children already..I just like to remind parents (and myself), to listen to the way we speak to our children, if we expect them to speak to us and others with respect and compassion.

Happy parenting.

mom of 4. Birth and Parenting Mentor


answers from Albuquerque on

Hi M.,
My name is K. and I have four kids (ages 12,13,15,16)and the top 3 are boys. Because the basis of all relationships is trust, and trust is only possible in the boundaries of truth, we have always insisted on truth. When that kind of thing came up in our home when the kids were young, we scolded them and told them how wrong it was to lie. Let him know how important the truth is. But also, it might be caused by him not feeling like he gets enough listening attention if he tells the truth. Make sure that when he speaks, you get down on his level and listen to what he has to say. He may just need a little more mama attention. maybe schedule time with just him to read a story or take a walk or something a couple times a week. Day care workers and sitters don't often have the ability to make our kids feel loved and important like you do.



answers from Phoenix on

I totally agree with what Alejandrina said. Good luck!

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