A father handed his daughter and her friend equal numbers of raisins. The daughter looked at the raisins on her and her friend’s napkin and said, “Alison has more.”
“But I gave you each the same amount,” her father protested.
The girl refused to accept the facts and continued to argue, “Look, she has more.”
Struggles often develop over such issues for children less than four or five years old. This is because young children base their reasoning on how things look, not necessarily on how things really are. One child wanted a whole cup of juice, but her mother only had half a cup left. The child fussed and refused the drink until her mother poured it into a tiny cup. The small amount of juice filled the little cup, and the child was happy, even though she still had the same amount of juice she had just refused as inadequate.
Parents can get easily frustrated when their child doesn’t think logically. A parent can count out jellybeans to prove that all the children at a party have the same number, but the children often will not believe the shares are equal unless they “look” equal. A spread out pile may seem bigger than a compact one; a tall glass of juice may appear to hold more than a short, wide one.
You can observe this pre-logical thinking with a simple experiment. Line up pennies in two identical rows (ten in each row), and ask your four-or five year old child if both rows have the same number of pennies. Then let her watch as you spread one of the rows out. Then ask if both rows still have the same number of pennies. A child under five (or six) will say that the wider row now has more pennies in it, even though she saw that no new pennies were added. A child reasons, if it looks like more, it is more.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to change a young child’s reasoning before she’s developmentally ready to think logically. Once you realize that your child thinks differently than you do, you can understand why she so often rejects what seems perfectly reasonable. Between the ages of five and seven, you’ll see dramatic changes in her thinking and reasoning abilities.
Until then, try to accommodate her thinking and kid-like reasoning, rather than struggle to change her mind. A father whose child wanted more ketchup on her plate, even though she clearly had an adequate amount, simply spread the ketchup out so it looked like a larger amount. He avoided an argument, and his daughter was completely satisfied.