When toddlers don’t do what they are asked, it can be tricky to determine whether they’re deliberately disobeying you, or simply not understanding your request.
By the end of the second year, children are able to understand instructions with several steps—“please pick up your shirt and put it in the basket”—but are more likely to act on your instructions if you give them the reason for it: “Please pick up your shirt and put it in the basket so it will be ready to go in the washing machine, and be clean when you want to wear it again.”
Sometimes, we assume young children understand the context of the things we say to them, but at 3 years old they’re just beginning to figure out that actions have reasons and results.
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