Written by Mrs. I.P. Bhatia
It is true that three and four year-olds need plenty of parental help, but preschool experts also agree that kids in this age group are typically able to do more than many of us think. Here’s how you can encourage them:
- Expect more : Most people have a way of living up (or down) to expectations – pre-schoolers included. Raise the bar and your child will probably stretch to meet it.
- Let them do what they can do themselves : While it may be quicker and easier to do it yourself, it won’t help to make your child more self-sufficient. The kids always want to do it for themselves and take pride in doing things by themselves like taking out/laying their own plate for dinner, tying shoe laces, picking up things spilt by them, setting their toys in shelf etc.
- Don’t do again what they’ve done : If your child makes his/her bed, resist the urge to smooth the blankets. If she dresses herself in stripes and polka dots, compliment her gorgeous style. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t fix what your child accomplishes. She will notice and it may discourage her.
- Let them solve simple problems : If you see your child trying to assemble a toy or get a book from a shelf that she can reach if she stands on her step stool, pause before racing over to help. Provided that they are safe, those moments when you don’t rush in, when you give children a moment to solve things for themselves, those are the character-building moments. It’s natural to want to make everything perfect, but if we do, we deprive kids of the chance to experience success.
- Assign a chore : Making your pre-schooler in charge of a regular, simple task will build her confidence and sense of competency. A child who is entrusted to water the plants or empty the clothes dryer is likely to believe she can also get dressed herself or pour her own cereal. Just be sure the chore you assign is manageable and that it’s real work and not the one just to keep them busy, since even pre-schoolers know the difference. The goal is to make your child feel like a capable, contributing member of the family.
Walk into almost any play school, and you’ll see children sitting quietly in circles, forming orderly lines, raising their hands to speak, passing out napkins and snacks. The question is: How do teachers do it? How do they get a dozen or more children under 4 to cooperate willingly and happily? While there’s no secret formula, most say:Praise is key, especially if your child is not in a cooperative phase. Try to catch her being good. Kids repeat behaviours that get attention.
- Develop Routines and Simple Rules : Kids cooperate in school because they know what’s expected of them. The children follow essentially the same routine day after day, so they quickly learn what they are supposed to be doing, and after a while barely need reminding. Though it will not be possible and practical to have the same level of structure at home, the more consistent you are, the more cooperative your child is likely to be. Decide on a few routines and stick to them: Everyone gets dressed before breakfast. When we come in from outside, we wash our hands. No bedtime stories until all kids are in night suits. Eventually, following these rules will become second nature to your child.
- Add Humor And Activity :If your child refuses to do something, try turning it into a game. Humor and games are two great tools that parents sometimes forget about in the heat of the moment. For example, to persuade to put his shoes on in the morning you can play shoe store. Children love to listen to their parents speaking in a silly accent and he loved it. By using this strategy you can make your fussy child brush her teeth. You can play Fruit Shop to make your child eat fruit.
- Prepare them in advance for transitions : If your child pitches a fit whenever you announce it’s time to switch gears –whether that means shutting off the TV, stopping play to come eat, or leaving a friend’s house — it could be that you’re not giving enough advance notice. Let kids know when transitions are coming so they have time to finish whatever they’re doing. If you need to leave the house at 8:30 a.m., warn your child at 8:15 that she’s five more minutes to play, then will have to stop to put her toys away. Set a timer so she knows when the time is up.
- Use rewards judiciously : If your child is always working for the reward, he won’t learn the real reasons for doing things — that he should pick up his toys. Reserve rewards for finite endeavors, such as potty training, but avoid offering them for everyday things, such as dressing himself or brushing his teeth.
- Give structured choices : If, for example, your 3-year-old refuses to sit at the dinner table, you might offer the choice of sitting and getting dessert — or not sitting and missing out on a treat. At first, your child may not make the right choice, but eventually he will, because he’ll see that the wrong choice isn’t getting him what he wants. If you want your child to choose option A, just be sure that option B is less attractive.
- No ifs : Make requests in language that assumes cooperation. “If you finish putting away your crayons, we can go to the park,” suggests that perhaps your child won’t clean up his crayons. Try instead: “When you put your crayons away, we’ll go to the park.”
- Prioritize play :Kids today are less able to play imaginatively than kids of a decade or two ago. Too much of their day is structured in supervised activities. Be comfortable saying, “Go and play.” It’s not your job to see that your child is entertained 24/7. Let her get a little bored. But make sure she has items like dress-up clothes, paint and paper, a big cardboard box, and play dough.
- Attach music :There’s a reason the “Clean-up” song works. Set a task to music, and suddenly it’s fun.
- Team work :If your child is fighting over a toy with another child, set a timer for five minutes. Tell one child he can have the toy until he hears the buzzer, and then it will be the other child’s turn.
- Stand Back and Watch : Instead of swooping in to settle disputes, stand back and let them work it out (unless they’re hitting each other). You won’t always be there to rescue your child.
- Distract and Redirect : If your pre-schooler is jumping on the couch or grabbing for her big sister’s dolls, distract her by asking if she’d like to draw a picture or read a short story together.
- Prevent good-bye meltdowns : If your child is nervous about spending time apart, give him something tangible to remind him of you. Let him carry your picture; kiss a tissue or cut out a paper heart and put it in his pocket. Having something physical to touch may help him feel less anxious — and short-circuit a tantrum.
- Involve her in righting her wrongs : If you find her colouring on the walls, have her help wash it off. If she knocks over a playmate’s block tower, ask her to help rebuild it.
- Don’t delay discipline : If you must reprimand your child, do so when you see her misbehaving. Sometimes we hear parents say, ‘Wait until we get home’ but by the time you’re home, your child has forgotten the incident.” Similarly, cancelling Saturday’s zoo trip because of Thursday’s tantrum won’t prevent future outbursts; it will just feel like random, undeserved punishment to your child.