My child just won’t reason with me
This is something that seems to be a universal argument made by parents with toddlers. They won’t listen to us, they won’t reason with us, it’s simply their way or the high way. So the only other ways most parents feel they can deal with certain situations is by doing things like bribing them, spanking them, yelling at them, putting them in timeouts, coercing them, or confiscating property. But it doesn’t have to be like this. I want you to really focus on the next two sentences and let it really sink in.
When we want our children to learn how to count to 10, we continually count to 10.
When we want our children to reason with us, we continually reason with them.
Do you really reason with your child?
It’s a question you really need to think about. Do you honestly reason with your children? Or do you use the fact that they’re a child and you’re the parent to dictate your decisions?
Let’s take a few common parent-child scenarios to help us answer this question.
- Your child would rather eat waffles instead of vegetables for dinner.
- Your child doesn’t want to go to bed on time.
- Your child won’t get dressed.
How is it that you approach these situations? Probably through the list I mentioned at the start of the article: bribing, spanking, yelling, timeouts, coercion, etc..
Now let’s take the above list of 4 common parent-child scenarios, and let’s change only a couple words of each item.
- Your friend would rather eat waffles instead of vegetables for dinner.
- Your friend doesn’t want to go to bed on time.
- Your friend doesn’t want to get dressed. (Maybe they feel like remaining in their PJ’s all day.)
Now these problems have gone from a parent-child relationship to a friend->friend relationship. Do you deal with any of these disputes differently with your friends than with your children? Generally we reason with our friends, we solve problems through peaceful voluntary means instead of using force, threats or coercion. We reason with our friends.
If your child would rather eat waffles instead of vegetables for dinner, let them. But continually explain to them why we should attempt to eat healthy. Role play with them even, the left hand is the tummy and the right hand is the tongue. The tongue loves the sweet sugar, but it hurts the tummy! Most importantly, set an example by eating healthy as well. If given the decision to make healthy choices, they will eventually start copying our habits.
The bed time routine is a little bit difficult if your child has to go to school. For those who homeschool or unschool their children, there’s no need for a specific bed time. But if your child does go to school, it’s up to you as the parent to prepare early on for that bed time. It’s up to you to ensure they’re tired by the time they must go to sleep. Sometimes you aren’t tired as an adult, and no one is pushing you around making you go to sleep. The approach here needs to be reason, but also preparation which comes from the adult.
With the getting dressed issue, it depends on the situation. Obviously if it’s late at night and our toddler just got out of the bath tub, they need to eventually get dressed. Initially as new parents, we would practically tackle her after she got out of the bath and have to force her down with wrestling moves to get her PJ’s on. But we realized if we reasoned with her by (a) describing why it was important that she got her PJ’s on and (b) gave her the decision if she wanted them on, she was more willing to let us clothe her.
Reason, Reason, Reason
In the end, reason is taught. It’s an exhaustive process that takes patience and grit. It has to be instilled at such an early age (less than 12 months even) for it to pay dividends when they’re full fledged toddlers. When they understand that when Mommy and Daddy has valued their needs, preferences and desires as equal to their own, they won’t have a problem reciprocating that same respect back to us. They’ll reason with us, because we’ve reasoned with them.