Sunday, April 11, 2010

Getting Preschoolers to Behave

So I have been getting a new e-letter lately that I am enjoying. It's from the child care/early education company Bright Horizons(Little Friends in Peoria and Bright Horizons in Bloomington.) Today I was reading about how to handle a 2-3 year old's temper. It is so crazy that the first paragraph in the article talks about kids sticking things into the DVD player. That is an ongoing saga at my house. My middle son has broken the DVD player so many times in the play room that I finally got the point where I refused to replace it. We kept taking it back to Target and getting new ones. I think it happened at least 3 times before I realized the DVD player was not to blame. The culprit was the little kid sticking things in it! Ugh!

So here are the tips from the Bright Horizons newsletter on how to get your preschooler to behave: [And NOT to reason with preschoolers (which I always try to do)] Feel free to share your tips for dealing with a 2-3 year old by posting a comment!

Make sure your child gets enough sleep.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children consistently obtain at least nine to eleven hours of sleep each night. When children are even slightly sleep deprived, it not only negatively affects their health, but it can also make it harder for them to control their behavior. (I agree, but sometimes they wake up early and won't go back to bed and sometimes they spend the night at grandmas:))

Establish a routine.

  • A routine gives children a structure and environment that fosters feelings of security, comfort, trust, and less anticipatory anxiety. They know what to expect, feel more in control, and can learn more easily. So routines give children a better understanding of their world and how they are expected to function in it. (The routine thing does work when we follow one at my house. Sometimes we alter it and it makes a big difference, but it's usually worth it!)

Have clear, specific rules of acceptable behavior.

  • It sounds silly, but we often don’t tell our children the rules. “We’re not buying anything at the store except groceries. Please don’t ask.”(I always say this and it usually causes an argument in the car on the way there. Ugh!)

Be consistent.

  • Children understand cause and effect. If we are inconsistent in certain situations, regardless of our intention, our children will learn that their inappropriate behavior is the way they can get what they want.

Stop what you are doing and focus on your child when expectations are an issue.

  • Put down the phone, stop the car, ask the shoppers behind you to wait, or come out of the shower to deal with inappropriate behavior. When you stop what you are doing and go to your child, you are acknowledging the inappropriate behavior when it happens and correcting your child immediately following his actions. ( I absolutely hate getting out the shower to discipline. It is one of my biggest pet peeves. I really look forward to the weekends when I can shower in peace!)

Speak to your child on eye-level.

  • For young children this usually requires getting down on your knees, leaning over, or sitting on the floor.

Validate your child’s feelings.

  • When your child has misbehaved, let him know that you understand, or you are trying to understand, how he feels. Validate his emotions or intentions. “I know you wanted the toy, but your sister was playing with it.” (I have done this and it does seem to help.)

Speak in a normal tone of voice.

  • When you are upset with your child, try not to yell or raise your voice.
  • Use a positive, firm, natural tone of voice.
  • In simple terms, explain to your child what he did wrong. He may not know. Instead of “You made a mess,” say, “You took all Mom’s books off the shelf.”

Offer your child choices when possible.

  • Give your child a choice between two activities that you propose. “It’s time to eat dinner. Do you want to put your seat beside your sister or me?”(This totally works with my son!)

Redirect your child.

  • Guide your child to a new activity and so he can no longer do what he wants to do. “You can build with blocks. You can’t play with blocks if you throw them. You can throw a ball.”

Have logical consequences for inappropriate behavior.

  • Don’t allow your child to continue doing what he wants to do unless he does it appropriately. “Write on paper. You cannot use the markers, if you write on the walls.”

Follow through.

  • If you tell your child that there will be a particular consequence for an inappropriate action, follow through.

Give your child positive attention.

  • Some children require a great deal of attention and that can be exhausting for us. And it’s usually those children who may act up because they want even more attention. They may feel that negative attention, our response to a tantrum, is better than no attention. Get into the habit of catching your child being good and rewarding her with attention for positive behavior.

Activities to Keep Twos and Threes Busy and Learning

Twos and threes are full of energy, so how do you keep them busy and learning without going crazy? Here are a few simple tips to enjoy time with your children. Keep in mind, the best toy a child can ever have is you.

  • Have lots of time to run, climb, jump, haul things around and ride wheel toys.
  • Let them play with blocks of different sizes and shapes; building and destroying.
  • Teach them to dress and undress themselves.
  • Have them help with household chores such as setting and clearing the table and watering plants.
  • Provide housekeeping toys and let them use real objects and tools: pots, pans, sponges, brooms, vacuum cleaners, and anything they safely handle.
  • Encourage them to count household objects as you perform household tasks (for example, count the spoons, cups, etc. as you set the table).
  • Read stories to them.
  • Sing songs and have them make up their own songs.
  • Encourage them to dance and move to music.
  • Answer their "how" and "why" questions honestly, but simply. And as they grow older, ask, “what do you think,” more frequently.
  • Depending on your tolerance for mess, give them paint, crayons, chalk, colored pens, collage materials, and play dough (and work on your tolerance for mess).
-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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