Not Thinking Clearly

Not Thinking Clearly

Parents of preschoolers often get upset or frustrated when their little one can’t do certain tasks. The behavior of infants and toddlers is so different from that of adults that not much is expected of them. But three, four, and five-year-olds are clearly capable of thinking, so why is it that there are many times when it is evident that they are not thinking clearly?

Parents are typically patient and understanding with physical development. They could see how their child had to crawl before he could walk. How when he started walking he held on to things for support. How it took a long time and a lot of effort before he could walk smoothly then run, jump, and climb. Physical development is right out in the open. They could see how far their child had come but also how far he still had to go. They could see his struggles.

But cognitive development is taking place inside the child’s head. All they can see is that their child is now capable of thinking, so they expect the child to think like they do. However, the fact is that preschoolers are in the pre-operational or pre-logical stage of cognitive development. Their mental machinery is still rather crude and unsophisticated, and it still has many heavy-duty limitations.

So try to be patient and understanding with this area of development as well. It will take several years before your little one has the ability to think logically, and many years before he will be able to think abstractly. In the meantime, instead of viewing him as incapable, appreciate just how hard he is working to eventually complete the long and sometimes strenuous journey to where you want him to be.

Dr. Mike

Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at