One aspect of the young child's nature is the inability to judge good from bad. This could also be called the 'innocence of childhood'. This is a state of great openness revealing the child to be in a different consciousness than ours. This other kind of awareness allows them to develop and learn through imitation without the burden of a judging consciousness. This is important for this early age, and it is important that this state of consciousness be left them as long as possible. As parents, we can be the judges, make decisions for them and, as much as possible, not burden them with the responsibility of choices they are not in a position to make. Staying away from giving the child choices, and following daily activities that are planned and led by an adult gives them security, a sense of belonging, and it leaves them free of unnecessary pressure. We can make the adult decisions to provide adequate nutrition, clothing, sleeping habits, and structure, and the child will make plenty of his own choices in his free play.

As an example, rather than ask if a child wants a snack, we can tell him happily that it's time for snack or make up a little snack song. Rather than ask if he wants to wear this or that hat, we can choose a hat and tell him it's time to put on the hat for going outside. Rather than ask if he wants to go to bed, we can start picking up toys for bedtime, sing a bedtime song and show him it's that time, through a regular bedtime activity.

Another aspect of the young child’s consciousness is his inability to reason. Our trying to reason with a young child often becomes an informational overload that is not necessary. It eventually desensitizes the child to what we say.

A one-year-old child, for instance, imitates and acts and does not think ahead, so there is no possibility of reasoning at this age because there is no real memory or sense of time or consequence. His memory is localized rather than abstract. For example, an eighteen month old child may not remember Grand-Mother's kitchen cupboard, but suddenly being in front of it at Grand-mother's house, there is a physical memory of opening it, and maybe finding pots and pans that made loud noises, but there is no abstract memory of it. This is why, at this stage, they are easily distracted: the child's memory at this age is local or bound up with the object. It is more recognition than memory.

A two year old begins to have more memories, and it becomes tempting to explain and give reasons for things, especially as they begin to speak. This is where the line between reasoning and showing them clear boundaries becomes trickier. It may help to think of observing and sensing what they really need to hear and responding to that rather than give them more information than they need or are even able to understand or assimilate.      


One can always ask oneself: "What does the child need from me now? Is what I am saying, or is my action, helpful, or confusing?" It gives the child security to be guided clearly, gently and firmly and shown boundaries, without having to be presented with complex reasons or apologies. The clearer the parent is about a given circumstance, the easier it will be for the child to follow. For example, a child that finds herself with a pair of sharp scissors in her hand can be told gently, "You found the scissors. They are not a good toy. I'll put the scissors away here. This is where they go." Sometimes they even enjoy participating in putting something away, or they may not be happy about the situation, but the situation is clear for them, the words match the action and they can accept the boundary.

In circumstances that are dangerous or involve hurting someone, it may be clearer to give a firm “We don’t climb the bookshelf.” Or “We don’t hit.”

See Discipline and speaking to the child

LINK to Joyful Toddlers


Parenting before TV - Winn

Baby smiling at mother 1913 

by Mary Cassat

Susan comforting the baby 1881 

by Mary Cassat