To Reason or To Not Reason with kids under 5?

Jenny - posted on 09/18/2011 ( 55 moms have responded )

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I've read a few parenting books that have advised to remember that children are not little adults and to not expect them to act that way; therefore you should not try to reason with them. Keep it as simple as possible. "No. Because it's not safe." But don't elaborate.

I find however that I always slip back into reasoning (with my 2 1/2 year old) and find that it often helps, so not sure what to do with that advice.

First example that pops into my head is once when I had trouble with my son fighting to keep the seat belt off. If I keep it at "Because it's not safe." he kept trying to pull it off. But then I decided to reason with him (instead of warning him and then giving him a consequence for not listening) and talked about how if he doesn't wear it he might get a big "ouch" while we are driving if we crash; and that it is safer with the seat belt on as it will protect him. That's all it took and he was happy to leave it on.

What is your experience with reasoning and do you think its appropriate for preschoolers?

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Tara - posted on 09/21/2011

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@Emma,
I know that scenario, some kids will try to argue their point regardless the any reasoning done by you.
In our house, my kids know they will get an explanation for whatever they are being told to do, not to do etc. however they also know that while something are negotiable like say a sleepover when one wasn't planned etc. if I say these words "I am being *firm with this* they know that is it. End of discussion. No more explaining by me, no more explaining by them.
So No still means No. But they do get an explanation as to why it's no. But they don't always get a chance to tell me why it shouldn't be no. etc.

[deleted account]

I don't think reasoning with them 100%of the time is useful. I also don't think saying, "Because I said so" is useful 100% of the time. Both have their uses though.

Sherri - posted on 09/22/2011

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My best friend moved her son when he was 5 to a booster with no back even though he only weighed 35lbs. I was horrified. When I take him I still make him sit in a car seat yes he is 7 now, he gets livid but he only weighs 39lbs. I said sorry buddy Auntie is just making sure you are safe.

Tara - posted on 09/22/2011

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A good way to show kids why they have to wear a seat belt, is to use a cardboard box as the car, trim off all the sides so there is only about 5 inches of walls, put some "people" in there, action figures, barbies etc. then have the child race the box/car on the floor and then slam it into a wall or another box/car. Show them how all the "people" keep moving even though the "car" has stopped. It's the law of inertia, one of newtons 3 laws of motion...
"I. Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. "
So after they see the results of the car crash, (you could even put a little paint on the people's heads so you can see where they hit upon impact).
Then use tape to add "seatbelts" then repeat the process. Explain to them that the "external" force is the seat belt.
Kids can see quickly how this works and why it is necessary for safety...
Just thought I would add a fairly easy way to show kids about the law of inertia, this also good for people who think they can "hold onto" a baby or small child etc even in a crash.. . impossible.

Merry - posted on 09/21/2011

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The seatbelt example would go like this:
"You have to wear your seat belt, it isn't safe."
"Why?"
"Because if we got in an accident you might get hurt."
"Why?"
"Because your seatbelt holds you in your seat so you don't fall out of the car."
"Why?"
"uhhhh.."

My little step sister was like this. Soooo annoying! So what I ended up doing is making it into a competition or game
So after you've explained as much as you can or want to and they still say why? just say you won the why game! Ok my turn to play!
Now you repeat the questions. And your child has to answer them! Good way to get out of the dead end of why's and also a good way to know your kid soaked up your reasons :)

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Jenni - posted on 09/23/2011

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Jenny, once they reach the max height/weight req for the infant seat, they say it's safest to then switch to a convertable rear-facing carseat. It's suppose to be 5x safer than switching to forward facing... until the age of 2 years old.

My daughter is still in her infant one. It's a max of 22 lbs (she's 24 lbs) and she's still under the max height requirements, but we're switching shortly to a convertable rear facing. My SD is about to outgrow her's and switch to a booster seat.

Jenny - posted on 09/23/2011

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When you don't know any different you don't have anything to be pissed about. lol. I still don't know if I should be pissed?! Maybe our cars are built safer. Who knows? It would be more unsafe to keep my kid rear-facing in a seat that is only rear-facing safe to 9kgs.

Jenni - posted on 09/23/2011

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I still have my 16 month old in a rear facing carseat. That new research on forward facing seats under the age of 2, scared me.

Krista - posted on 09/23/2011

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Yeah, if I was an Australian parent, I'd be PISSED at the lack of availability of rear-facing car seats for older/bigger babies. I remember in one debate about this, some Australian mother said how their car seats are different and safer, and that's why it's okay. I told her I didn't realize that Australian babies' necks were also built differently...

Sherri - posted on 09/22/2011

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Australia has some of the earliest turn around rates I have ever heard about. US is really fighting to change the laws to 2yrs but the recommendation is still to keep rear facing till 3yrs old.

Stifler's - posted on 09/22/2011

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Yeah Logan went forward facing at 8kg because he was too big for the capsule.

Jenny - posted on 09/22/2011

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So bizzar hearing about keeping kids rear facing when they're two or older. I thought I was following the Australian safety guidelines when I turned my son's seat forward facing when he reached 9kgs (19.8lbs) at about 10 months. My 16 month old DD is forward facing too, she's 10kg (22lbs).

Stifler's - posted on 09/22/2011

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Here you like lose points off your license if people in your car don't have a seatbelt on.

Merry - posted on 09/22/2011

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Wow that's crazy! My friends son was 22 months when we kept him while his mom gave birth to their second and they gave me his car seat, usually he's forward facing but I put him rearfacing. If I got into an accident and he was forward facing I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself. Idk how his own mom can risk it.

Merry - posted on 09/22/2011

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I know two 3yr old boys who aren boosters with seat belts. I think it's illegal......it's not safe let me tell you, they are both erics size and he's still rearfacing! Just don't know how to tell them they're being unsafe without ruining the friendship with throne mom, and without sounding like a jerk to the other mom since we aren't even friends, but she lives upstairs to us and I see her get her son in the car.

Merry - posted on 09/22/2011

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Eric loves his seat belt, it's a 5 point harness so he likes helping me buckle each part, it's always so tight that there's no way he could wiggle out of it, and he will be in a 5 point harness until he's either 49 inches or 80 lbs so I think by then he will be reliable not to unbuckled a regular seat belt. I doubt he could undo his buckles at the angle he's sitting at even in a few years, hopefully he never tries :)

Krista - posted on 09/22/2011

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I think as a parent, our job is to teach our kids how to reason on their own. And it's a long process, and it MUST be kept age appropriate.

With my son, who just turned two, I use extremely simple language, instead of overwhelming him with a bunch of explanations. So if he doesn't want to wear his sweater outside, I'll say, "Outside is cold! COLD!! Brrrr! Sweater is warm -- yay, warm! We can play now!" And if he still refuses, I'll say, "Sam says, 'No sweater, Mama!' Okay. No sweater, no playing outside." So the ball is really in his court at that point, and it eliminates having a battle of wills.

It obviously depends on the kid, but if my son is anything like me, he'll respond a LOT better to a rule or a decision if I let him know why that rule/decision is in place.

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I explain most things to Ethan, the only exception is where a situation has imminent danger such as running into the road...but I always explain after the event why we do not run into the road. My explanations are always appropriate to my son, they may be too simple for some children his age or too advanced for others but for him they work.

I find on the odd occasion I just tell him to do something without explaining he argues so much more, so it shows that the explanations work for him. But that doesn't mean that my word isn't final, if I say no I will explain why but I will not change my mind regardless of how much a child whines, moans, or tantrums. I try not to use no unless they absolutely can't do something though, I try to give a time frame of when they can have or do what they want where possible.

ETA: my son is almost 2.

Sherri - posted on 09/22/2011

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Mine well only twice ever but he slid the chest protector down slid his arms out and climbed right on out. I immediately pulled over walloped his behind explained why and we never had a problem again.

Tara - posted on 09/22/2011

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No not a 2 year old but maybe a 3 year old, depends how much they soak up I guess. They may not understand the laws of physics, but they can understand you saying "you need a seat belt just like the people in your car need one" and it might be enough of a lesson for them to just want to copy what they have been told is appropriate within a car.
2 year olds are hard to reason with about anything. Distraction and re-direction are still my best weapon.
I also don't know any 2 year olds who can undo their safety belt on their car seat. If they can I would be pretty ticked at the manufacturer for making a seat that can so easily be undone by a toddler, I would see that as a serious safety flaw in the design of such a car seat.

Sherri - posted on 09/22/2011

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I do not seeing that having any impact to a 2 or 3yr old. They would just think it was a blast to crash it into the walls.

Merry - posted on 09/21/2011

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Trivial or non emergency things I'll explain or reason with him. But emergency important things it's no explanation.
My friend explains to her son why not to hit every time. She's like,'we don't want to hit, hitting hurts Eric, you don't want to hurt eric' while if my son hits hers I grab his hand firmly and say 'Eric. We do NOT hit'
Pisses me off when she's trying to reason her son out of hitting mine cuz it doesn't work! And she's trying to like brainwash her boy into thinking he doesn't want to hurt Eric but obviously he is consciously hitting him so in a way he does want to hurt him!
She never gives him orders without a lengthy discussion, he's 2 and she's explaining about how if he dumps oh all the trash then it will get all smelly and he sill have to help clean it ip. He does it anyways! Duh. He doesn't care!
Idk, reasoning within reason is good but when it's a serious offense moms word has to be LAW

Stifler's - posted on 09/21/2011

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Exactly Tara a lot of the time they don't give a shit about the reasons why and just want what they want and don't care if they've already had one, it's 10 minutes until dinner, it's too close to bed time to have red cordial. All the reasoning in the world doesn't get some kids off your back.

Anna - posted on 09/21/2011

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I don't know much about 1-2-3 Magic specifically but I have heard the 'don't reason' argument and I do agree with a lot of it. Small children need to be told why but I think plenty of parents are guilty of too much talking. It's as though they think their child would stop misbehaving if only they understood better, but understanding is just one part of it. Even after a child understands the reason why a certain behavior is wrong or right he needs to learn self control, unselfishness, delayed gratification, patience and all sorts of other things (which even I as an adult haven't perfected yet).
When my son takes things from his sister it's not about lack of understanding and talking to him about sharing over and over again is not going to solve anything. Discipline is about more then just talking.

Johnny - posted on 09/21/2011

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On the weekend, my daughter was walking around shuffling her feet. My husband kept telling her to stop. No explanation. Just telling her over and over and over and over and over again. I try not to interfere, because I'm hoping he will start to figure it out. But alas....

So yesterday when I picked her up from school she was doing it again. I told her that if she shuffled her feet like that it could put holes in the bottom of her shoes. She stopped right away. At dinner time, she explained to her father that you shouldn't shuffle your feet when you walk because it might make holes in the bottom of your shoes. The look on his face was priceless.

It doesn't need to be a detailed explanation all the time. I didn't have to go into why shuffling could put holes in the bottoms of her shoes. I just gave her a logical reason and she was satisfied. And she is in the middle of the "why" stage.

JuLeah - posted on 09/21/2011

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You can reason with them, you just have to reason with them at their level. For you to recount the latest research on seatbelt safety, explain the loop holes in most insurance coverage if you are unbelted in a crash, outline the physics of an impact on a stationary but unbelted body ... that might be going a bit far for someone just two.

I know people who do this and swear up and down their kid understands ... yah

I also know people that talk with their dog in this manner and swear she/he understands ... yahhh

But then I know too folks who swear their goldfish misses them when they go to work ….

But, back to children: You have to find the reason that works. I had a 4 yr old in my life that hated bed time ... so, I posted 'bed time 8:00' on the wall and for whatever reason, that made the difference.

The poster on the wall said 8:00 and he didn't feel he could argue with that in anyway, so he never did

Another kid might just rip the poster down, or put up their own ... but following rules as posted on the wall made sense to him, it was reasoning and logic he bought into

Tara - posted on 09/21/2011

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Yes and I think if you don't start reasoning and explaining things to them before age 5 you are only serving to restrict their own development. Cause and effect are a huge part of life and learning. Teaching children about this is the first step in natural parenting. Kids want to know about things, they want to learn the reasoning behind things. Lateral thinking is a great skill to have, giving kids information encourages them to think outside the box about problems, behaviours, routines etc..

It also reduces conflict because you are not taking ownership of the offending action, like in the OP, you explained the reason for wearing a seat belt, without making it a demand *you* put on him. He is less likely to rebel when he does not feel that his independence is being thwarted by someone, especially you and that there is just an acceptable reason for needing the belt, one that is not personal but is done by all in society.

When I hear a parent say things like "Because I say so" I think how much is lost in that exchange. Giving arbitrary answers to questions or demands or problems only leaves a child feeling like they have no real self. That without just cause or reasoning someone else can just enforce their will upon them. To me this does not lead to lateral thinking, independent problem solvers... which is what I want my kids to be.

Kids need to know why the world operates the way it does, and it starts with the family dynamics at home.

Jenny - posted on 09/21/2011

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Its written by Thomas W. Phelan. Here's a web page if you're interested. The book explains it a lot better than I have and makes sense. But when put to practice the theories are a bit too simplistic.

But I'm sure I've heard the phrase thrown around everywhere, "there's no reasoning with him" "don't get into a power struggle" etc..

Karla - posted on 09/21/2011

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Now I'm wondering about the author's background. I particularly don't understand the "do not keep explaining yourself every time it happens" thing. Isn't that something every teacher learns -- that we must repeat the information over and over? (I mean, not in one setting, but throughout their childhood.)

Jenny - posted on 09/20/2011

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I've read a few, but the one that stood out the most with trying to portay this was 123 Magic for Parents. They go on about "the little adult syndrome" where we forget that kids are kids and don't think like us.

It says that for new behaviors you give them an explanation as to why it is inappropriate but once you have given them this you do not keep explaining yourself every time it happens and do never try to reason with them as it will lead to a highly emotional situation. Something like that.

I find that I do reason with my son and explain it again and again even if it happens a few times. Sometimes he needs that reminder.

Karla - posted on 09/20/2011

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Jenny,
I’m curious about these parenting books that advise you not to reason with your children.
I would usually reason with my kids, or explain things, but (as mentioned) it did depend on the situation, etc.

I also remember reading about a study showing that children whose parents reasoned with them had better cognitive ability (I would think better critical thinking skills.)

My thought was always - if they don’t understand me, that’s okay, they will eventually, but usually my little kids were asking the questions too, they want to know “why.”

Eva-Lotta - posted on 09/20/2011

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haha. That's a good one. I guess it depends on the circumstance... I don't "reason with nappy change etc either"... :)

Jenny - posted on 09/20/2011

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lol! I love your example. And no I don't reason with diaper changes either, well not with my 16 month old! She's been resisting diaper changes from day dot. Sometimes I just have to pin her down and do it.

Elfrieda - posted on 09/20/2011

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My son isn't even 2 yet, and my husband reasons with him all. the. time. It actually seems to work pretty well, except that sometimes my husband gets frustrated when my son doesn't understand, and I have to remind him that he's just a baby and that it's okay to just make a decision and inform him that it's because "that's how Daddy wants to do it" and then just do it, crying or not.



I think the reason it often works for them is because my son loooves attention, and when my husband is talking to him for 2 minutes about why he needs to lie down and be quiet for a diaper change, he's looking my son in the eye and focusing on him 100%, and that really fills a need and calms him down.



I don't have the patience for all that talking. I attack him with my hair to make him giggle and quickly whip the diaper off and on. No explanations.

Stifler's - posted on 09/20/2011

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My experience reasoning with kids is... "Aunty Emma can we have this" "No, it's too close to dinner"... "but I promise to eat all my dinner" and the arguments just go on forever. The answer is no, don't reason don't argue or they will end up getting whatever they want. It's just no because I said so.

Jenny - posted on 09/20/2011

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So far reasoning seems to work with my DS and prevents him from having a melt down. I think I will stick to my instincts on this one and change if it stops working.

Having said that, there are times when he is will fully disobedient. That is not a time to reason with him.

Eva-Lotta - posted on 09/20/2011

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I believe the kids (most anyway) understand a lot more then we give them credit for, they just can't communicate as well as adults in terms of talking back. I explain everything to my 2 year old and even my 8 month old. For example if she tries to touch something that is hot I say "No, don't touch it's hot." keeping it simple but then go on to explain that if you touch something that is hot you will burn yourself and it will really hurt blah blah blah... I think over the years it helps them understand why we say no etc and I believe it helps them with their communication skills too...

Stifler's - posted on 09/19/2011

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Not. There is no arguing with a toddler, they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

Jenny - posted on 09/19/2011

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On the flip side, I've talked to my son so many other times about why its not safe for certain things that when we go on the road I say "We need to hold hands when crossing the road to keep safe." And that's enough because he already knows the concept of being safe and not.

Jenni - posted on 09/19/2011

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How frightening for your son Sherri! :(

I agree they can't understand many explanations to the extent an older child would.



It should be kept simple and in words they can understand.



In road safety discussions with my son, I kept it simple. If you go on the road a car could hit you. It would hurt really bad. No going on the road.



When my son was 2.5 yrs old he would say "Yes, the car will hit me right here!" (indicating his foot) hmmm... he doesn't understand the full consequences. But even the thought of getting his foot run over by a car has been enough of a deterent for him to exercise caution near the road.



I think if I had just said "It's not safe." It wouldn't even hold *that* much gravity. So I think a little explanation is important or simple reasoning (depending on the child of course). I don't see how it could hurt, providing them with a simple reason why something isn't safe.



But as Johnny pointed out. Many young children can *not* be reasoned with when they are throwing a fit.

Anna - posted on 09/19/2011

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I would think it's all about knowing your child. My 3 year old seems to do well with a simple, 2 sentence explanation, especially when it comes to safety issues.

But, I've noticed that if I can't keep it simple, he stops listening. For example, I haven't had any success explaining to him why it's wrong to be wasteful, that it's bad for the environment, costs everyone more money etc. For us it just works best to say, "we don't keep the water running because it's wasteful," and he just knows that waste is bad.

Carolee - posted on 09/19/2011

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I don't read child-rearing books because the people who write them don't know anything about your children's personalities. My son deals better with in-depth reasoning than other children his age. It's always been that way. Some kids can't handle in-depth conversations, and that's fine. But, people who write books for the general public have to be very careful about giving advice. They have to gear it towards those who's kids are in the most-common and least "advanced" kids. (I'm not saying that my son is advanced, just a bit OCD, which is why he needs the in-depth conversations... the books would refer to him as "advanced", even though I don't agree.)

Johnny - posted on 09/19/2011

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I will say though, that there are times when I won't reason with her, because if she is very worked up and throwing a fit, it does not filter through. I need to calm her down before a conversation can occur. But I suppose that really applies to people of any age.

Johnny - posted on 09/19/2011

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I reason with my daughter because she seems to understand it. It works better than just saying no. She wants to know why. I think it probably depends on the child though. Mine wasn't satisfied with the explanation of why it rains (because there is water in the clouds that falls). We had to give then entire water cycle plus an explanation of gravity. When I was 3 "because" would have sufficed for me.

Sherri - posted on 09/19/2011

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I agree I explain to all of them what my expectations are and why, even when they were very young. I don't expect them to always understand why but I at least them tell them and get more complex as they get older.

I don't think any child understands the seriousness of staying buckled in a car even with an explanation. They may understand the words but not the full extent of the ramifications if you weren't. My son sadly learned exactly why because he experienced it first hand when we were in a very serious car crash when he was 3. He now understands 100% and will never forget it. He was securely buckled in his car seat and uninjured. He now buckles up without any hesitation because he realizes what can happen if he doesn't.

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Jenni, my son questions EVERYTHING!! I love that he's so inquisitve, but half the time I don't know what the heck to say to him. lol

Jenni - posted on 09/19/2011

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I think it is appropriate to reason with or explain why at times. If it does work in certain scenerios better than a simple explanation, than why not?



Besides, my son is never statisfied with a simple explanation. He wants to know "Why? Why? Why?" ;)



The seatbelt example would go like this:

"You have to wear your seat belt, it isn't safe."

"Why?"

"Because if we got in an accident you might get hurt."

"Why?"

"Because your seatbelt holds you in your seat so you don't fall out of the car."

"Why?"

"uhhhh.."

Minnie - posted on 09/19/2011

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Like others have said, it depends on the child. It also depends on the situation and the particular child's emotions at the time. I usually try to explain myself if I have time- that's what I would want afforded to me. I want my daughters to know WHY we do or don't do things, and since they learn from birth I see no reason not to explain things even to babies. It's a gradual process of understanding.

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I like to try and reason w/ my kids from a very young age. Not going on and on, but a simple explanation and building up w/ more details. My theory is that no one knows exactly when their reasoning ability will kick in and by treating them as if it's always there (on a small scale at first)... I think they can pick it up quicker than if you set some 'magic' age that they can reason and not start til then.

Not to say I don't pull out the 'because I said so' card though cuz sometimes the only reason I have for them to stop doing something is that it's going to make me lose my mind. lol

Sherri - posted on 09/19/2011

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Depends on the child. Some will listen better with reasoning others will not. So it is not if the shoe fits type of scenario. What works with one child may not work on another.

Jenny - posted on 09/19/2011

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"I think they would have less comprehension of "it's not safe" than of a proper explanation."

Loved the way you put that, exactly what I'm trying to say.

Sarah - posted on 09/19/2011

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I always explain why I want my 3 to stop whatever she's doing.......I had the seat belt issue too the other day, I told her that she could very badly hurt if we got into a crash and that we must always wear our seat belts so we can be safe......like Dora always says!

Personally, for my kids, I would never just say "because it's not safe", I think it's important to explain why......I think they would less comprehension of "it's not safe" than of a proper explanation.

Charlie - posted on 09/18/2011

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I think it all really depends on the child and their ability to comprehend what it is your saying, I think *MOST * preschoolers have the ability to understand if you need to elaborate, others will be happy to stop with a simple explaination.

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