Why did I DO that?
“Why did you grab that toy? Why did you hit your sister? Why is there spaghetti in your hair?” We ask toddlers these questions and they never come up with an answer. Why? Because they live in the moment. Their brains aren’t wired to the point where they can think about their own thinking. This ability develops over time. By the time he’s about 4-5 years old, your child will be able to think and talk about his thoughts and explain why he did something. He’ll even be able to imagine what other people are thinking and put himself in their shoes.
That’s when parents and children can (and should) have a lot of fun talking about why a child likes this or that and why he chooses one thing and not the other. You can even ask your 4 year old’s opinion about house rules!
Toddlers, on the other hand, simply experiment with all kinds of behaviours. As they do things over and over again, and important adults in their lives consistently respond either positively or negatively, they learn about certain behaviours being either acceptable or unacceptable.
So, for now, asking your toddler to explain himself only serves to overwhelm him. And, depending on your tone of voice, the message that you’re sending may very well be: “You clearly weren’t THINKING when you did that! I cannot believe how STUPID you are!”
“When we know better… we do better.”