Why am I trying to reason with a 5 year old?

via soundfromwayout @ Flickr

via soundfromwayout @ Flickr

Because I’m a parent…that’s why. It is what parents do. BUT, does your child too often ask “why?” or otherwise try to get into back and forth discussions about things you have asked them to do? Maybe when you have said, “no?” Do you have an attorney in training? Do you feel like your 5 year old would be a pretty good hostage negotiator? Sometimes “because I asked you to” is the most honest and truest answer. But, we end up giving really weird examples that don’t make sense. We make “life lessons” out of simple stuff like putting toys away, closing the door or washing your hands. This results in long, drawn-out lectures like about germs and how germs travel and make us sick, or about how the open door increases the energy bill, wastes energy and how that’s not good for the environment…blah, blah. Sometimes we even fall back into the things we said we would never say like,

“if someone did that to you, how would you feel?”

or the famous

“if everyone else in your class jumped off the bridge, would you?”

In some cases, it could be the right thing to do. But truly in most cases are you really just wasting your breath? Look, this is not an “end of the world” behavior conversation, but it is something I see parents struggling with quite a bit. They might have a kid who is having a lot of trouble eating new foods (or eating at all) or maybe a kid who simply does not follow directions. The more they try to convince the child to do what they need to do, the worse it gets. Or, at least it does not get better. Sometimes when parents do this, they are essentially creating a delay for the child. They are allowing a brief respite from doing something the child does not want to do. The parent asks the child to do something and the predictable, “why?” comes out, or maybe just a simple, “no.” This can be a poor time to explain why because it creates a natural avoidance from the request and also reinforces repetitive questions. Watch this, for example. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgL-5hWdfjM Nice delay, huh? So, what do you do? Follow through or stop interacting. You just do not want the arguing to be a functional tool. This guy does a pretty nice job staying calm and not being really ridiculous, but carries on a conversation that does not necessarily have to happen. Also, if you noticed, the arguing also resulted in a reduction of the original request (she got to clean up half the room instead of all). Nice side effect of the arguing. There is a time to explain why or talk about it from a different perspective, but if your child has problems with following directions and you feel like you always have to get into a diatribe about “why,” you should do the explaining and reasoning  after the chore or request has been completed.  It goes something like this, “thanks for doing that, now let’s talk about why I need you to do it” or “now I can tell you why it is important for you to do that when I ask.” Do you need me to explain more about, “why?” 

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