It takes a rare degree of irrepressible hope to attempt to reason with a toddler. Trying to reason with a toddler means you think toddlers can reason. Toddlers are exceptionally rational in the world they inhabit, but you probably want to reason with your child in the world where she is not the boss of everything. The approach to this problem requires tapping into the knowledge of child development specialists.
The Ability to Reason
The ability to reason is a critical part of your child’s development, according to the Head Start program. Children learn to think and reason so they can apply strategies to problems and make decisions. It doesn’t seem like it when your toddler has thrown himself on the grocery store floor while having a screaming fit, but he is trying to understand the world. It’s wonderful that you want to reason with your toddler, but the age of reason doesn’t start to kick in until about the age of 3 1/2, according to Jane Nelson, co-author of “Positive Discipline.” Even if your child is already at the age of reason, fully developing the ability takes a while so he won’t be mastering the skill today.
Your toddler has an important reason for throwing his body about while screaming and flailing his arms. He is communicating with his body because he lacks the language to tell you what he really thinks, according to parenting expert Brenda Nixon in a DisneyParenting.com interview. Nixon warns that toddlers are not little adults and are often unreasonable. Toddlers have trouble accepting alternate viewpoints or interference with their plans. Really, your toddler has no idea that you are in charge. He needs help managing his emotions, like anger, frustration, disappointment and sadness.
Reacting to Tantrums
Trying to reason with a toddler who is having a tantrum is futile. The appropriate response to a toddler meltdown is to ignore it and resist the urge to yell, bribe, demand or punish, according to the Family Education website. If it is safe to do so, leave the room. Wait until the tantrum is over, which will happen more quickly if there is no audience, and as your child begins to calm down talk to her about her behavior. Praise her for calming down on her own and reassure her that she is loved. You will have to respond in this way a few times before she gets the message that there is no reward for out-of-control behavior.
Talking to Toddlers
Remember when talking to your toddler that he still confuses fantasy and reality. On the other hand, depending on his age he might understand a little about time. You can bargain with him, as in “you can play after lunch.” Choices often help diffuse toddler frustration. If ice cream is out, offer him orange wedges or popcorn so he has a little control. Recognize his emotions and tell him you understand. For instance, tell him you see that he is angry and ask how you can help. Prepare him for change by giving him warnings that something is about to happen, like leaving the playground. Sticking to routines, explaining what’s happening and resorting to laughter when things begin to go south will help your toddler behave more reasonably, even if he is not ready to reason.