During preschool, your child is developing a newfound sense of independence, and while this is a fun period, it also comes with some unique behavior issues.
For example, you may see your child lying from time to time. This is often a reaction to the books, TV shows, and movies they are absorbing, as well as their great imaginations, but it’s still important to teach them the difference between lying and telling the truth. Your preschooler may also pick up the wonderful (and potentially life-long) habit of whining; children usually turn to whining as a way to get you to reconsider when you say “no”—and it often works. Try hard not to give in. Furthermore, to assert their independence, preschoolers may simply get defiant.
When it comes to dealing with these behavior problems, preschool teachers are on the front lines, so they are often quite adept at responding to and curbing these issues. Here are five tips from preschool teachers.
Give your child specific positive reinforcement
Praise is usually effective when it’s selective, specific, and positive. Try not to compare your child’s current behavior to past behavior or compare it to other children’s behavior. When delivering praise, do so with a natural, caring tone. Be specific about what you are praising.
Moreover, the best “technique” is always to catch your child exhibiting good or kind behavior; this often leads to a much more genuine acknowledgement than if your child, for example, ran up and told you what good thing he just did.
Model the correct behavior
It’s important to walk the walk when it comes to behavior. Be conscious of what you say and how you say it, both to your child and others. Modeling shows your child what is acceptable and reinforces the appropriate way to behave.
Your child may be confused if you, say, tell them to always be kind to others, but then get upset and yell at a another driver when they cut you off. This shows your child that you don’t always have self-control and you don’t have to always use nice words when you’re upset. What’s more, this demonstrates problem-solving skills by choosing to remain calm when you could have gotten angry.
Give direct, positive guidance and explain your reasoning
When you are telling your kids what to do, be direct and explain the reasons for the rules (keeping it simple for young kids). Be sure that your guidance is on what to do, as opposed to what NOT to do. For example, if your children are running in the house, tell them to walk, rather than “Don’t run.” This shift in words may be small but it can actually make a big difference.
When you tell your child that you’re going to do something, say leave the playground in five minutes, then do it. If you give in to requests to stay just a little longer or do one last thing, your child will learn—very quickly—that rules can be negotiated. Yes, you may be saving yourself a headache in the short-term, but in the long-run, you will be bringing much more on yourself in the long-run.
Instead, give your child gentle warnings starting about five minutes before it’s time to go. Then, when the five minutes are up, state definitely that it’s time to go. You may have to go get your child the first few times until he knows you’re serious.
Structure and routine make for successful naps
You may be shocked that your child is able to sack out among 20 other preschoolers, yet can’t (or won’t) fall asleep at home. While it’s often easier at school because all the kids are doing the same thing, there are other factors at play, too.
For instance, make sure you’re giving your child enough time to unwind before their nap—at least half an hour. What’s more, don’t start a pre-nap activity that your child will want to continue into nap time. Additionally, create a routine. Make nap time the same time in the same place; use the same music; and have the same expectations (quiet time or sleep, for example). Consider using a fan or white noise machine to block out background noise.
Use these tips to make preschool a successful and fun time for kids and parents alike!