Positive Guidance for Preschoolers
Between the ages of three to five children grow and develop in every area. Many parents and teachers become frustrated with children’s increasing desire for independence. Children are making sense of their world and testing its limits. Positive guidance techniques give you tools to make negotiating with young children positive, decreasing tantrums and frustration for both parent and child.
1. Acknowledge the child’s feelings. This is an amazingly simple yet powerful tool. Children will often visibly calm and be able to hear you more clearly when you first acknowledge where they are in their frustration. For example if you tell the child that it is time to go and the child begins to cry or gets angry, you can get down on the child’s level and say, ” I see that you do not want to go, you are having fun here.” Before giving the next “but” wait for the child’s response. The child may then respond, “Yes, I want to stay!” At that point, it is more likely that the child will hear your next request because you have acknowledged their feelings.
2. Avoid character judgments when addressing behaviors. Instead of saying that a child is bad for climbing on a piece of furniture, make it clear why that behavior is unacceptable. You might say, ” I can’t let you climb on that furniture because it is not safe. Also, if it breaks we would have to fix it.” Children can understand rules that have logical meaning behind them and generally want to be kept safe. Children are still learning impulse control and often don’t foresee the consequences of their actions.
3. Offer realistic choices. Offering choices is a great way to give small children some power in making their own decisions. The key is to give choices in which either choice is acceptable to the situation. If you go to pick up your child from school and ask, “Would you like to go home?” that is not really a choice that they can make. Instead, you might say, “it is time to go home, would you like to wear your backpack or carry it?”
4. Let children know what they can do. Sometimes adults get stuck in the circle of telling children what they can’t do. Don’t climb on that, don’t run, no we can’t do that. Try to reframe it so that children have options of things that they can do. ” We can’t write on the walls, but you could write on this paper or this cardboard box.”
5. Offer attention for positive behavior. This does not have to come in the form of treats or artificial praise. Offering genuine respectful attention to children when they are engaged in meaningful activity goes a long way in reinforcing that behavior in them.
Preschool children are curious, energetic and full of life. It is a wonderful time to see them as they blossom into their own people with their own ideas. Positive guidance techniques can help parents and teachers to guide children through the challenges and more thoroughly enjoy the pleasures of this stage. Remember to have fun!