By: Sue Granlund, Preschool Director As a preschooler, it is truly amazing how much your child has learned in the first 2-5 years of their lives. Their brains and bodies have been busy taking in all they observe and experience. Now is when the fun really begins and their energy level explodes! You will find yourself having fun at old activities because you are now seeing them through your child’s eyes. You will develop a relationship with this little person that now has a very distinct personality of their own. This is a time where your child is learning some independence, but they still need you close, think you can do anything, imitates you and wants YOU, when life gets too difficult. It is important for you to become very observant of the unique traits your child has, so you can build into their self esteem and discourage any negative behaviors. You are not just raising a child, you are raising an adult. And you want to be preparing them for the challenges and rewards they will find in the life they experience. It is critical that you plan, and prepare for 3 basic needs. Modeling, Consistency and avoiding the ‘NO’ trap.
You are the primary example of how you want your child to be when they grow up. They love you and need you, but they are closely watching what you do, how you handle life and treat people and how people treat you. You need to make sure that your values are clearly lived out in front of them. They will bring you the greatest joy in life and also make you take the hardest look at yourself. This could be a time of growth for both of you. Make sure that what your child sees in you is a trait you would like them to value. Your child will eventually need to know how to make healthy choices for themselves. We are not perfect, so be willing to tell your child you are sorry as well when you have made a wrong choice. We want to help them grow into adults that will show others grace, so we need to be able to stand humbly before them as well.
Children feel the most secure when they know what to expect from the world around them. This is why they are sometimes hesitant when they are introduced into new situations. When it comes to behavior and discipline, a child should begin to know exactly what is expected of them at home, and be able to predict with accuracy what will happen if they make a bad choice. Rules need to be simple and clear. And consequences need to be consistent and short-term. Parents or caregivers need to be on the same page for rules and discipline or children will learn to manipulate, divide and conquer. Discipline is meant to help bring about desired behavior, not discourage a child or lead them into negative behaviors. Discipline should not lead to the child questioning your love for them. They will learn it is a result of a choice THEY made, as long as it was a known rule.
The ‘NO’ Trap
Look to find your child doing something right and praise them. (Do not give false praise or it won’t genuinely mean anything.) And provide opportunities and experiences for your child to be successful. When your child does requires correction, don’t just tell them what not to do, tell them what you would like them to do. Example: saying, “NO running in the house” usually plants an idea and sometimes causes …running in the house! Rather say, “I am so proud that you are going to walk down the hall to the kitchen, thank you”. Help direct them from a potentially wrong behavior toward something positive. This requires you to be aware and paying attention. But the payoff is huge!