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Here is a great slide that shows the development of executive function in children's pre-frontal cortex. Notice the 2 big leaps - one from age 3 to 6 and the second from age 13-25 years. This is why children under age 5 years comply (listen) to their parent's requests less than 40% of the time. This is a normal development issue, and not a discipline issue. It is the reason children do not begin mandatory school until age 6 - they all can't sit and "listen."

It's why children under age 6 are not good at playing the game of chess. They don't have the cognitive abilities fully developed to plan ahead, (change to plan B when the queen takes the rook), lose the game without throwing the board across the room (self-control), remember that the king moves one way and the knight moves another (working memory) and the ability to concentrate on the game and filter out distractions (look, the ice-cream truck is coming!)

So ages 0-3, parents are just doing damage control - keeping their children safe and the house safe. Ages 3-6, parents can teach, but with the expectation that kids are not going to get it yet. They need many, many teachings, without punishment. They need repetition in order to connect and reinforce the brain pathways that increase the learning. Ages 7-12, kids still make mistakes but are gaining in knowledge, self-control and better decision-making.

Show this slide to your relatives this summer, when they wonder why your toddler and preschooler "doesn't listen."

We don't punish a child in a wheelchair for not being able to get it up a flight of stairs. Why would we punish a preschooler for forgetting to brush their teeth. Both are beyond their physical and mental control.
 

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