A father handed his
daughter and her friend cups containing equal amounts of raisins.
The daughter looked at both cups and said, “Alison has more. I want
“But I gave you each the same amount,” her father protested. The
girl refused to accept the facts and continued to argue for more
Struggles often develop over such issues for children less than five
years old. They base their reasoning on how things look, not
necessarily on how things really are. If something appears right to
a child, she’ll accept it, even if her acceptance defied logic. One
child wanted a whole cup of juice, but her mother only had half a
cup left. The child fussed and refused the drink until her mother
poured it into a tiny cup. The small amount of juice filled the
little cup and the child was happy, even though she still had the
same amount of juice she had just refused as inadequate.
Parents can become frustrated when their children don’t think
logically. A parent can count out jellybeans to prove that all the
children at a party have the same number, but the children often
will not believe the shares are equal unless they “look” equal. A
spread out pile may seem bigger than a compact one; a tall, thin
container may appear to hold more than a short, wide one. Parents
can demonstrate this pre logical thinking with a simple experiment.
They can line up pennies in two identical rows, and then spread one
of the rows out. A child under six or seven will say that the wider
row now has more pennies in it, even though she saw that no new
pennies were added.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to change a young child’s
reasoning before she’s developmentally ready to think logically.
Once you realize that your child thinks differently than you do, you
can understand why she so often rejects what seems perfectly
reasonable. By the time she’s five or six, you will see dramatic
changes in her thinking and reasoning abilities. Until then, you
might have to accommodate her at times, rather than struggle to
change her mind. A father whose child wanted more ketchup on her
plate, even though she clearly had an adequate amount, simply spread
the ketchup out so it looked like a larger amount. He avoided an
argument, and she was completely satisfied.