Development FAQ: 24+ months – Learning

There are certain rules and standards I would like my son of 2.7mths to understand. What is the best way to teach him?

My son who is 2 years and 7months loves to play jumping games with my husband but he now seems to think that he can jump around wildly on anybody’s sofa. Am I being unrealistic at this age to think he really understands why he shouldn’t? My husband is quite laid back about such things. I have tried to explain to my husband that we need to be consistent about some things, such as jumping on the furniture and holding hands to cross streets even if they are quiet. The trouble is my husband like to rough house play when he comes home in the evenings and encourages my son in jumping games. He thinks it should be part of our son’s childhood and he is probably right but how do we teach my son when it is ok to jump from the sofa, because Daddy is there and it is part of a game and when it would inappropriate, such as jumping on the sofa at Grandma’s house. Won’t we just end up confusing him?

You are right in thinking that your son needs to understand the rule about jumping on sofas. Getting your son to understand why it is alright to jump on the sofa at home, when playing with his father, but not when he is at Grandma’s house does depend on how developed his comprehension is. What you and your husband do need is a united approach to the subject. Each of you should discuss your feelings and reasons with each other when your son is not within hearing. You may both have to compromise a little to meet halfway but decide how you will approach this rule and others which may be a bone of contention between you.

A small child needs to live by certain rules and standards. A child will be far more secure if he knows what is and what is not acceptable. Keeping rules to the minimum does help. But, for safety reasons, there are certain things which are simply not negotiable. One of these could be holding hands when crossing the road. Even if you are in a suburban street with no sign of traffic your son must understand that at each and every road crossing he holds your hand the whole way across. If something unexpected happens such as a motorbike appearing from nowhere you will have your son right beside you. If he is allowed to cross some quiet roads alone he would not know how to act should an emergency situation occur. He is just too young yet.

The way to explain a rule to your son is to be concise. Giving him long explanations will confuse him and probably go above his head. He will just tune you out. You also need to be very specific. The reason he jumps off Grandma’s sofa is he just doesn’t understand that what is acceptable at home is not elsewhere. “Don’t jump on the sofa” is unclear to him. It would be better to point out that the sofa at home is the special one he and Daddy use for their games. But Grandma’s sofa is not one that can be used for games, nor is the sofa in the living room at your friends’ house. Keeping your language simple and within his level of understanding will help him comprehend what is expected of him. Rather than being confused that he may jump on the sofa at home but not elsewhere he is more likely to comply, as you have given a reasonable explanation which is at his level.

You will have to give him reminders, especially when he is excited, but always bring the reminder back to the point he does understand.” You may jump at home with Daddy in the playroom, but not at Grandma’s house.” That is reminding him rather than nagging but in a way he will understand. A small child will need reminding every time he goes to Grandma’s house as his memory is short. Providing you do it in a matter of fact way, rather than threatening, he will be more likely to comply and keep to the rule.

Once you and your husband have decided what are going to be the rules about sofa jumping, road crossing and any other things you both feel quite strongly about, you must both stick with them. However quiet the road seems your son must always hold hands. If you do slip up once he is bound to notice and enforcing the rule again will be doubly hard for you. Point this out to your husband. A child very soon learns about inconsistency and will play on it. It also will confuse him and his understanding of how the grown up world works.

One final point is that you yourself need to follow the rules you set for your son. Teaching him road safety will mean you need to always cross at a safe place. You also need to wait for the green light even if the street is clear. It will only confuse him if you tell him it is safe to cross because you say so, [and are in a hurry] when you have taught him to wait until the red light turns green.