Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reasoning about reasoning...with three year olds

This morning, while dropping off Little G at "camp" (it is a program that runs over the summer by the school he has been attending, but it is structured differently in that they go EVERYWHERE around the city...Children's Museum, Science Museum, Pools, Parks, Playgrounds, etc.) there was a very (and I mean, very) minor incident.

Little G tried to climb onto the mini-trampoline that his friend was jumping on and his friend leaned over and hit him squarely (though not hard) on the back.  I saw it and the woman who runs the program saw it.  It wasn't a huge deal, but I can imagine that if the situation had been reversed and we had been elsewhere, that I would have taken Little G off of the mini-trampoline and carried him away (mostly likely crying) and then would have sat him down and told him that our hands are not for hitting.  It most likely wouldn't have 'gotten through' to him because he probably would have been hysterical over being taken off of the trampoline  and then I would have been annoyed that I felt like I had the only kid in the world that wouldn't listen and it would have escalated from there.

Instead, the program director handed the Ladybug to me (she had been holding her because the Ladybug LOVES the program director).  She looked at the other little boy and took him by the hand and said sternly, "Excuse me," while she led him off of the trampoline and over to the little table that was less than a foot away.  She sat at the table and the little boy stood in front of her and she held his hand and started talking to him.

"We do not hit our friends", she said.

The little boy looked away, so she directed him back towards her and told him to look into her eyes and she continued.  He looked away several times during the conversation, but she never lost her train of thought or her control.  She held his hand and redirected his attention to her eyes each time, all while telling him, "We do not hit our friends.  We use our words to say, 'Little G, it is my turn on the trampoline because I was here first'".  Then she asked him if he had something to say to his friend.  The little boy walked over to Little G and mumbled something that no one could hear and the program director said, "Excuse me, Little G did not hear you." To which the little boy looked at Little G and said, "I'm sorry.  Are you ok?"  Little G said he was and the morning continued.

It was one minute out of so many in the day.  But it is minutes like those that have been changing my parenting and affecting the entire lives of my children.

"You can not reason with a three year old!"

That's what I have heard people say for years.  Years before I ever even dreamed of getting married and having kids, I heard people say, "You can not reason with a three year old!"

"You can not reason with a three year old!" isn't a new thought or a singular one. It was basically a movement from well before my or my parents' generations - a way of thinking along the lines of 'children should be seen and not heard'.  And I would venture to say that for most young parents, the thought of how to discipline isn't one that comes to mind when gazing at the newest of babies in wonder.  Instead, around a year old, the need to discipline your child starts to rear its head - whether it be for their protection or the protection of other people or things - and many people haven't figured out or even thought about what they will do.

So new parents, myself included, fall back on what they've heard all their lives.  "You can't reason with a three year old!"

And I am not saying that three year olds are reasonable, nor am I saying that reason will work every time nor that three year old's will even listen.  But I am learning that my children deserve my respect and that the best way to show that is to try to reason with them.  By respecting my children they(hopefully) someday return that respect.  In the end, isn't that what we are trying to teach our kids?  To respect their elders and their friends.

And in doing so, in learning to respect others, I can imagine that those unreasonable three year olds are also learning to respect themselves.

And that's definitely reasonable.


  1. I totally agree! Actually my daughter is 17 months old, and even she responds to reason (some of the time anyway...). Honestly it greatly reduces conflict and power struggles if I explain to her what is going on, and why it needs to happen. This doesn't mean she doesn't pitch fits from time to time of course, but treating her as if she was a real person with her own agenda and preferences helps a lot.