Kid is of 3.5 years of age.

What should be my reaction? I have a habit of immediately saying "I told you this will happen, you didn't listen!"

Is saying this wrong?

The reason I am asking this is that if something is already in trouble, that time such statements may seem irritating.


2 Answers 2


Could you try switching tactics and make a mistake a learning experience by asking questions to promote discussion: "What did you learn?" "What would you do next time?" "How did that choice make you feel?" "What did you expect? and "Were you sad about how things turned out?" "Was that a good choice or an unhelpful choice?" "Why do you think your choice didn't work out?

The dynamic of "I told you so..." doesn't foster a child's ownership of learning and move them forward to reflect on the connection between choices and outcomes. How could you foster that sort of dialogue and give yourself permission to let go of your own responsibility for what your child chooses?

I'm not saying to never say "I told you so," but maybe help them reflect on what your ideas where and what you suggested and how things turned out. So, you don't actually have to use the words "I told you so" but move the child into taking responsibility for where choices lead and not giving any excuse for them to develop a rebelliousness against parental conversation that involves good choices.


It could be that a 3 1/2 year old is not quite capable of fully understanding what you are saying, so you might change what you say a little bit.

What you mean is: The child should listen to what you are saying. That's because you know about dangers that the child doesn't know about, so if they don't listen then they get themselves into danger, and sometimes the danger strikes and the child gets hurt.

What you say is: "I told you this will happen but you didn't listen". The logic to get from this to what you meant is tough for a 3 1/2 year old. Say it more direct: "Next time when I tell you not to do something, you should listen to me and not do it, or you will be hurt again". That's easier to understand.

Now if you said the same thing to a 16 year old, or maybe a ten year old, then you would be right to fear that they just find it annoying. In that case your reaction should be to find a way, together with the child, to reduce or limit the damage. And teach them that when there is trouble to not close their eyes, but fix it or ask for help as soon as possible. Because most trouble can be reduced if you act in time. You can mention "last time when you didn't listen to me you got into trouble" when you advice them again at some point in the future, and you fear they aren't going to listen again.

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