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Dottie Did It!

Imaginary friends can be protectors, scapegoats, a conscience, or an emotional outlet. They can exist by themselves or they may come accompanied by other friends. Some imaginary friends visit every day while others only make only a pit-stop now and again. They could be female or male, an animal, or something more ethereal with super-human strength or  magical abilities.
Dottie is a fictional character in Maisy’s world. She uses Dottie as a scapegoat or alter-ego and always blames her for any wrongdoing. Maisy calls upon Dottie and uses her as the guilty party in a range of situations she knows won’t be popular with her mummy and daddy. Sometimes her mummy and daddy have trouble keeping a straight face because the things Dottie gets up to are hilarious! When asked about Dottie’s behaviour, Maisy will explain in detail what she has been doing and make Dottie real.Dottie Did It

Some commentators argue that having an imaginary friend or a stooge in Maisy’s case, helps to develop language skills because they get more linguistic practice while inventing and carrying out conversations or explaining scenarios. Some theorists go further and argue that imaginary friends help children recall knowledge faster than children without them. Research has shown that children with imaginary friends tend to be more creative, independent, happy and cooperative. 

One of America’s best known psychologists, Lawrence Kutner states, 

‘Imaginary companions are an integral part of many children's lives. They provide comfort in times of stress, companionship when they're lonely, someone to boss around when they feel powerless, and someone to blame for the broken lamp in the living room. Most important, an imaginary companion is a tool young children use to help them make sense of the adult world.’

Kutner, Lawrence (2009). Insights for Parents: Midnight Monsters and Imaginary Companions.  

Fantasy is important to children and imaginary companions arise out of active and agile young minds. Blaming an imaginary friend gives children a chance to distance themselves from a situation and preserve their self-image while learning what acceptable behaviour around them is, and also what it isn’t. As parents, it’s important to enter into the spirit of things, be gracious and accommodate without entertaining the fantasy too far.  
Dottie Did ItChild experts recommend going along with imaginary friends suggesting parents don’t ridicule but accept them into the family instead. Imaginary friends can be used to help a lying situation. For example, “I bet Dottie  took the money because she didn’t want you to get in trouble?” “Tell Dottie she mustn’t touch mummy’s purse without permission.” 

Admonishing an imaginary friend has an important social function in growing up and creating identity. A child knows there may be trouble ahead if they themselves have done something they know will prove to be unpopular. They are also useful for blaming when they don’t know the house rules! Imaginary friends can help master the difference between right and wrong. 

Blaming someone else isn’t the answer long-term but it helps a child test boundaries and can contribute towards instilling a sense of self-responsibility. If Dottie has done something wrong, it is important not to overlook the indiscretion. Dottie needs to own up to it and face consequences for her misbehaviour. 

Dottie Did It! was something Maisy’s mummy and daddy heard a lot of from 3-4 years. We don’t hear Dottie being blamed for much these days as Maisy herself accepts responsibility for what she does…most of the time!   

Experts say that children really want the love and respect of their parents and they fear that getting into trouble they could lose it.  This is why Dottie Did It! ends with “Maisy?”, “Yes?”, “We love you!” 

The most important thing to say is, “I love you no matter what you have done.”


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