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Imaginary "friends" encouraging "bad" behaviour

776 Views 6 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  annarosa
I'm not sure how to approach this one so I'm hoping someone can give me a few ideas. My ds is 3-1/2 and for the past week or so has been engaging in inappropriate behaviour and while he's doing it and I'm trying to get him to stop he's telling me "I have to because so and so (pick an imaginary friend like a horse or a toy) is telling me to. What is this about? Is he just using these "friends" as an excuse to engage in this behaviour? I'm talking about stuff like throwing a ball in the house, pushing his baby sister over to get his truck through, etc...

I've approached it two different ways so far but not sure if it's successful. I tell ds that he needs to let his imaginary friends know what the rules are and help them follow them. I'm hoping that giving him that responsibility will encourage him to follow the rules. He does eventually talk to his "friends" about the rules and they seem to comply.

I've also talked to ds and told him that he has to stop and think for himself and if he knows or thinks something is wrong he should (or shouldn't) act upon it. He's so willful and spirited in all other activities so I'm not sure why he is so accepting of imaginary requests. He's more than willing to tell me "No" and not listen to anything I say

I'm sure this phase will pass (like so many others) but I'm just wanting to get some input on what others have done if they've encountered this behaviour.
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I'm posting because I have wanted to ask the same question for the last six months and I want to subscribe to this thread. My DD turned 4 in March and her imaginary friend Frosty the Snowman has been around for over a year.

In addition to trying the things you mentioned to stop Frosty from doing bad things we have done some not so GD things to Frosty like melt him or send him to Uncle Rene inThailand so that Frosty will melt. Frosty always comes back.

In addition to encouraging DD to do things she shouldn't like throw clothes or put cream in her hair, if my DD trips or falls it is because Frosty tripped her or pushed her. Also if DD has learned a new word (good or bad) Frosty has taught it to her.

Since she turned 4 we have been seeing less of Frosty although he pushed her off her chair at dinner last night

My DD even made a Frosty the Snowman at Build a Bear for her imaginary Frosty.

I don't have any answers but I have a lot of sympathy.

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I wanted to give this a bump. It probably sounds trival compared to some other issues addressed in this group but when you are dealing with it isn't trival.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

OK, this may be WAY off base, but it's the best thing I can come up with:

There was a thread a while ago about catching kids lying, and the suggestion I made was to not set the kid up - so if, um, a lamp is broken and they were the only one in the room, you don't ask them if they did....there are myriad reasons why they might say "no", even though it's clear it was them. Instead, you just make an observation about being careful in that room so that things don't get broken, and depending on their age, ask for help cleaning it up. They know that you know, but you're not forcing a "confession" out of them.

Sooo, in this case, for instance, instead of, "why did you just lean off your chair?" "Frosty pushed me".......just say, "I'd rather you stay in your chair during dinner." "But Frosty pushed me." "I'd just rather you were in your chair for the whole meal".....

or, instead of "Please don't push your sister" "but the horse told me to" "Please don't push your sister, that's not OK."

You can interact with the "friend" when they're playing appropriately, but try ignoring it when the "friend" is a bad influence.

Actually, it kind of reminds me of the sibling advice given in the Anthony Wolf book, "Mom, Jason's breathing on me" - and actually, an imaginary friend is sort of *like* a sibling.

As I said, maybe I'm totally going in the wrong direction here...but it's all I can come up with.

Anyone else???
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As a child I had what some would call an imaginary friend but for me as a child it was an imaginary nightmare. These things would seriously hold me against my will and my parent
s just thought it was mischief. But I still remember the feeling of them holding me down. In my case they were little men on horses. They never made me do anything bad per say just held me against my will so I would get in trouble for not coming when told.

So in fairness to the child sometimes they are just as rel as people are to you.
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I do not have any words of wisdom but I do sympathize, mama. My DD (who will be 4 in June) has a friend who lives in the mirror in our house. Her name is Matilda and sometimes her mommy, who coincidentaly looks like me, will allow Matilda to climb through the mirror and come visit. Dd will often correct me when addressed by her proper name, "I'm not DD, I'm Matilda!"

I love her imagination but it gets wearisome. And annoying when she blames things on Matilda. She said something very mean to DH - I forget what; she may even have kicked him - and when I tried to discuss it she absolutely dissolved in tears weeping over and over, "it wasn't me, it was MATILDA!"

I, too, have tried the approach of giving DD responsibility. "what do you think Matilda could do to make this situation better?" (I loathe forced apologies.) Often Matilda will appear and apologize. I also ask her to explain the house rules to Matilda. This seems to work OK; she likes to be in charge and made to feel important.

I see it as a phase, albeit a rather trying one, where she is trying to process "good/bad" and figure out personal responsibility. DD has other imaginary friends, all of whom seem to fulfill different roles, but Matilda's primary role seems to have to do with her own actions having consequences. Hang in there, I know it can be frustrating. (I DIDN"T MAKE THAT MESS, IT WASN'T MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, IT WAS MATILDA, accompanied by weeping and gnashing of teeth and thrashing on the floor is a regular occurrence in our house.)
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OK - I have not had this happen with my dd but my thought is that how you treat you imaginary friend is very important - I would tend to talk directly to the child without blame and giving a clear direction - eg. please do not push your little sister, I don't like it : but X did it it was not ME - that is not an OK thing to do for X or for youto do, please don't let it happen again

kind of like treating the imaginary friend as connected to the child and even part of the child and you taking responsibility for correcting the conduct of both of them...........
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