I came back upstairs to find every chair knocked over and all the counters contents knocked into the floor. "What happened?" I asked my three- and two-year-old boys. The elder quickly informed me that, "Spiderman" had done it. This was the start of a trend of naughty acts done by imaginary specters. While the whole thing brought me flashbacks of a childhood favorite flick, "Drop Dead Fred," I honestly was not impressed with the fact that my toddler felt he could get away with whatever he wanted if he said someone else did it. The imaginary trouble makers had to go.
OK, first question, are my toddler's imaginary not-so-awesome buddies cause for concern?
Nope. Imaginary friends are extremely common in young children-about two in every three toddlers has one by age three. The old blame-the-imaginary-guy trick also is not abnormal. Toddlers have very little impulse control and a whole lot of desire to please. This makes the tendency to blame misdeeds as a result of that lack of control on someone else to remain "good" in your eyes pretty standard. This sort of behavior actually indicates your child has a healthy imagination and nothing more.
Second, what do I do about these imaginary friends?
In general, there is no reason to discourage imaginary friends. Surveys have not found children who were allowed to embrace fantasy friendship to have any less real life companionship or develop escapist tendencies. You're actually encouraged to encourage your child's fantasy play, however, you still need to address the bad behavior being done in these pretend friends' names.
The most effective method I found to deal with this issue was to tell my toddler he was responsible for his friend's actions just like he would be a pet. I didn't try to dissuade his fantasy by saying he did it, simply that he would be disciplined for his play friends actions. After this conversation my typical disciplinary action was followed in the event of bad behavior. By remaining consistent in your methods even in the face of an imaginary foe, you tell your child *this* is indeed they way things are, these are the rules, and they will not be circumvented with any level of creativity.
While his imaginary friends still pop up on occasion, since it does him no good to blame them, he has mostly ceased this behavior.You may also enjoy: