Five-Year Touchpoint: Magical thinking

Learn about: Five-Year Touchpoint: Magical thinking from Joshua Sparrow, MD,...
Five-Year Touchpoint: Magical thinking | Kids in the House
KidsInTheHouse the Ultimate Parenting Resource
Kids in the House Tour

Five-Year Touchpoint: Magical thinking


Usually, sometimes around 3 years of age, parents become aware of their child’s fantasy life, of their ability to use their imagination. And this really works well for children when they’re having trouble facing reality. So at 4 and very often at 5, what we often see are children who just don’t want the world to be the way it is. And parents worry a lot when they see their 5-year-old lying or cheating or stealing and they ask themselves, “Does this mean that my child is going to grow up to be sociopath or some kind of a criminal?” But the reality is, at 5 it’s still very hard to accept that you can’t have what you want. That the world doesn’t always work the way you want it to. And it feels really terrible to have lost this game when you want to win so badly. So at 5 – and in this period from 3 to 6 – children use their capacity for magical thinking to imagine that it really isn’t this way. “I didn’t steal it, it’s mine.” Or, “He said I could have it.” Or, “I really did win.” And the way to help children with this is to set the limit and let them know that you both know that isn’t what happened and this is the way the world really is. But not to overdo it, so that they’re so upset about having done something wrong that they can’t learn from it. Because the help that they really need is to be able to handle the feeling of not having what they want, of not having the world be the way they want it to be, of not winning when they want so badly to win. So what they need from us is help being able to stand those kinds of feelings, because if you can handle it, then you don’t have to lie, you don’t have to cheat and you don’t have to steal.

Learn about: Five-Year Touchpoint: Magical thinking from Joshua Sparrow, MD,...


Expert Bio

More from Expert

Joshua Sparrow, MD

Child Psychiatrist & Author

A child psychiatrist, Dr. Sparrow’s care in the 1990s for children hospitalized for severe psychiatric disturbances, often associated with physical and sexual abuse, and for developmental delays aggravated by social and economic deprivation, prompted his interest in community-based prevention and health promotion. At the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, his work focuses on cultural adaptations of family support programs, organizational professional development, and aligning systems of care with community strengths and priorities, and has included collaborative consultation with the Harlem Children's Zone and American Indian Early Head Start Programs, among many others. He has lectured extensively nationally and internationally on related topics and has consulted on media programming for children and parents, including PBS’s Frontlines and Discovery Kids. Co-author with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of 8 books and the weekly New York Times Syndicated column, “Families Today,” Dr. Sparrow has also served as a contributing editor to Scholastic Services’ Parent and Child magazine. In 2006, he revised with Dr. Brazelton Touchpoints: Birth to Three, 2nd Edition and in 2010, co-edited Nurturing Children and Families: Building on the Legacy of T. B. Brazelton, a textbook on the ongoing generativeness of Brazelton’s seminal research in a wide range of fields. Dr. Sparrow has authored numerous other scholarly works, teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, and is frequently called upon for his expertise by national and international media. Prior to attending medical school, Dr. Sparrow worked for several years as a preschool teacher and journalist in New York City.

More Parenting Videos from Joshua Sparrow, MD >
Enter your email to
download & subscribe
to our newsletter