May I have a cookie?
No, not now.
But, I want a cookie.
Not now, we will eat dinner soon.
I want a cookie.
Not now, later.
But I want a cookie…
Have you had this conversation before? If you have a toddler I am sure you have.
Well, bad news is there is no convincing your toddler to wait until after dinner for that cookie (or whatever else it is they are transfixed upon at that moment).
Good news is that your toddler is not really an evil little thing that knows if they just ask one more time you will be broken and give in. Often that is the way it works out, but really, that was not a plan schemed by your 3 year old.
The fact is that a toddler really cannot make the connection or understanding that he cannot have the cookie now but perhaps sometime in the future. He also cannot move beyond the desire for that cookie.
I attended a VERY interesting discussion this week on children and brain development. At birth until about 2 years old a baby’s brain is still quite undeveloped. All of the parts are there, but there is still much room for growth. Until the age of about 2 years a baby’s right and left hemisphere is only partially connected to one another, and throughout infancy a child primarily functions according to the right side of the brain, which is known to drive social, cognitive functions, like feelings, touch, play and emotions. After about age 2, a child’s brain begins to form a fibrous connection between the right and left hemispheres, although this connection is not fully complete until sometime after age 4-5. Think of this connective fiber as a system of power lines used to connect functions between the Right, social, feeling, emotional side of the brain and the Left, analytical, numerical, thinking side of the brain. Until this system of connective fibers is complete a child’s response simply cannot be formed using both his feeling and thinking functions, yet is based mostly on purely a need created by emotions.
So… you have two options next time you hear, “May I have a cookie?”
First, you could wait about a year for the brain to grow and you receive an agreeable response.
Or, you can attempt to distract your toddler from this topic and move on to something else. Good luck!
If you would like to read more about infant brain development check out the book, Bright From the Start by Jill Stam.