As children get older they begin to explore, find more independence, and begin thinking for themselves.
It’s that time in your child’s development when you say to yourself, “Oh! Now they have a mind of their own!”
This means that they also will become resistant when you are trying to hold a boundary with them. All of a sudden your child starts refusing to do things that you request of them. They even have the ability to walk away or assert themselves verbally!
If you are concerned about parenting a preschooler, consider these six tools.
1. Talk Directly to Your Child
Have you ever seen a parent trying to discipline their child by yelling at them from across the room?
If that feels awkward to you it’s a sure bet that their child didn’t appreciate that either. When you are parenting your child it’s important to talk directly to them. If necessary, close the distance between you so that it’s a more one-on-one interaction. Also, kneel down to their level. Talking to your child while standing over them is only intimidating, and can lead to more resistance.
2. Ask Questions
Instead of swooping in to scold or rescue, ask questions first. Start with, “what’s wrong?”
Of course, a preschooler is going to give a less sophisticated answer than an adult (most of the time). However, it can provide valuable insight into their behavior and what should be the correct course of action.
Besides asking your child questions, it’s also helpful to ask questions of yourself. “Why is my child doing this?” or , “What are they getting out of this behavior?”
3. Use These Opportunities to Teach
You can use moments of misbehavior as opportunities to teach correct behavior.
For example, let’s say your child says something mean to another child. After reminding them that is not appropriate, ask them to apologize. Then follow up with a short discussion about how the other person felt and why it is important to be kind. This is a classic way parents teach appropriate behavior. You can be effective in the moment by reinforcing those critical life lessons.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Still, don’t rely solely on impromptu moments strictly to teach behavior. Practice and rehearse with your child the do’s and don’ts of correct behavior.
You can use rewards and positive reinforcement when they do something correctly. For example, if you know that your child will be with you at a family gathering, rehearse what they should and shouldn’t say or do to others. This also sends the message that you, as a parent, are watching their behavior. If you observe them doing something correctly after practicing well, let them know that you saw them do a good job. Remember, everyone loves to please, especially a preschooler.
5. Be Consistent with Boundaries
If you do have to give a consequence to your child for inappropriate behavior, be consistent. Don’t let some behavior slide while giving out a consequence at other times. This sends mixed messages to your child and only confuses them. However, if they know that they will get a consequence for a particular action, such as interrupting, then they will be less likely to do it.
6. Avoid Letting Your Emotions Get Out of Hand
It can be tough in the moment to always remain patient and in control of your emotions, especially if your child did something wrong. However, it’s important to remember that even though they are misbehaving, they are still children. Try to remember when you were a child. Don’t forget that they are still learning and will be receptive to your discipline if you remain calm, kind, and willing to teach them what acceptable behavior looks and sounds like.
Parenting is never easy at any age. However, when it comes to managing a preschooler’s behavior it feels as if you are managing a tornado. Yet, by keeping these tools in mind you can better manage and even empower your child.