Reasoning with a 2 year-old


My 2 yr old son Eli – photo by Ken Shuman

I often wonder if reasoning with a two-year old is even possible. You can’t truly have an adult conversation with someone that is not an adult, or can you?

I have tried and I have failed, repeatedly.

If your child is like my son, Eli, he is not a fan of brushing his teeth. He turned two in February and brushing his teeth during the past few months continues to be more and more challenging. The dentist even wants us to floss his teeth every night… “Are you kidding me?”, is exactly what I said to the dentist when he told me this in February.

About ten nights ago, I was in the kitchen doing the dishes and through the monitor I heard my wife reasoning with Eli. My wife was reading him books and he had just finished his bottle. Once the bottle is gone, it is time to brush his teeth and this is where the meltdown usually begins. Tonight however, things were different. This is what I heard through the monitor…

My wife in a very kind voice, looking Eli in the eye said, “Mommy doesn’t like fighting with Eli every night to brush his teeth. If Eli is good when Mommy brushes his teeth, Mommy will read Eli two more books.” Eli responded with a “Wooooooooah!” He was clearly excited and sure enough, he was very well behaved when my wife brushed his teeth.

The skeptical side of me thought this worked once and there is no way this will work again the next night. Each night my wife reminds Eli that if he is a good boy, he will get two more books. This has been successful 9 out of the last 10 nights and on the one night he was bad, my wife stuck to her agreement and did not read him any more books post-brushing.

Personally, I learned a few things from their interaction.

  1. It is more effective to talk eye-to-eye with your kids and get down to their level.
  2. Bribery is okay, especially when it involves reading more books each night.
  3. You must stick to what you say and follow through on your promise.

Now I want to put this learning into action and see if I am capable of reasoning with a two-year old.



One thought on “Reasoning with a 2 year-old

  • Great post!

    I wrote a similar post about my 2 year old daughter yesterday. Although your experience seems to be a lot better than mine when it comes to dealing with a 2 year old.

    You can read it here if you like:


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