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What's Wrong With Reasoning With Kids?

Nancy Samalin

Good question. Nothing-unless you're still under the illusion that when you give your child umpteen reasons why he* can't have what he wants, you'll succeed in changing his mind. I often remind parents that kids aren't busy. We are busy. That means that children have endless patience and energy to try to persuade you to change your no into a yes. Have you noticed that your giving him more and more reasons why he can't have what he wants when he wants it has made him change his mind and stop wanting it?

Nancy Samalin, parent education pioneer
Nancy Samalin


Does that mean we should NEVER reason with our kids? Of course not. But before you do answer the "why can't I?" "why not?" questions, ask yourself "have I already given my child the answers to this question many, many times already?" If the answer is yes, then instead of using reasoning to try to change your child's mind, try saying something like "I'll bet you know the answer to that question" or "do you have any idea what I'm going to say?"

If your child is truly interested in the answer to her question, then, of course, give her an explanation. And before you answer "why" questions too automatically, consider the possibility of enabling your child to give you the answer that is on her mind. That also helps you to listen and understand what she is really thinking or what she has figured out for herself.

And remember, if by the age of five, you're starting to feel as if your child is ready for law school-that's a sure signal to reason less and state your case firmly and clearly without endless explanations.

*To avoid saying he/she or his/her, I'll alternate between the two. Clearly this information applies to both sexes.


Nancy Samalin, a pioneer in the field of parent education, has worked with parents, educators and health care professionals throughout the U.S. and abroad since 1976.
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