Parents Plus & Parents First Psychology Led Service

Why I might keep doing what you’ve told me not to……..over and over!

What you might notice me doing

 You’ve told me “no” or not to do something, like touching something you don’t want me to.

I seem to understand you mean “no” and stop but later I might look directly at you, or smile as I do the thing you’ve told me not to.

You might say something like “he knows EXACTLY what he’s doing”.

Why this is happening?

Whilst frustrating for you, this behaviour is actually not purposeful or intentional.

The part of the brain that helps us to think things through (e.g. if something is right or wrong) and to understand our emotions only begins developing at around age 3.

Looking to an adult before doing something is a way of learning what is safe or unsafe. At this stage, it is not a deliberate decision to do something which is not allowed.

Your child is being a little scientist, figuring out ‘what happens when I do this?’

Early brain development is what allows the amazing changes in development that happen in early childhood. It’s also what gives young children their amazing ability to ‘stick at’ something.

When a child is learning to walk and falls down 50+ times, they never think to themselves “maybe this isn’t for me”. It’s this same perseverance being shown in these more difficult behaviours.

Ways to help me

Remember: I’m doing this because it’s something that helps me learn and develop, not to annoy you. This help you feel more patient with me.


Connect with me before you correct me: give me simple explanations and say out loud what you think I might be feeling e.g., “I know you really want to touch that but I can’t let you. It’s not safe.” Try not to shout at me for this behaviour.


Do’s rather than don’ts: tell me what to do rather than not to do (“hold it carefully” rather than “don’t spill that”).

Out of sight: put the thing you don’t want me to touch out of sight so I’m not tempted by it.


Redirect: try to encourage me towards something else; “Let’s do this instead.” Think about what I’m trying to find out. as a little scientist, ,and think if there is a safe way for me to do the behaviour I’m interested in. E.g. if I climb on things I’m not supposed to, take me to a place where I am allowed to learn to climb, like soft play or the park.


Look After Yourself: so you are better able to look after me.  If you find yourself getting really frustrated with me, take some time out and have a break away from me if you safely can.

Created by Educational Psychologists at Cardiff Parenting Service

For more information, advice or support please contact Cardiff Family Gateway:

Telephone: 03000 133 133



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