Character building: How to shape the mind of your Preschooler for a lifetime
- Redirect. If your pre-schooler is jumping on the couch or grabbing for their sibling’s toy, distract them by asking if they engage in another fun activity 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 them something tangible to remind them of you. Let them carry your picture; kiss a tissue or cut out a paper heart and put it in their pocket. Having something physical to touch may help them feel less anxious — and short-circuit a tantrum.
- Involve them in righting their wrongs. If you find them coloring on the walls, have them help wash it off. If they happen to knocks over a playmate’s block tower, ask them to help rebuild it.
- Don’t delay discipline. If you must reprimand your child, do so when you see them misbehaving. “Sometimes I will hear parents say, ‘Wait until we get home but by the time you’re home, your child has forgotten the incident.” Similarly, canceling Saturday’s outing to the cinema because of Thursday’s tantrum won’t prevent future outbursts; it will just feel like random, undeserved punishment to your child.
- Encourage teamwork. If your child is fighting over a toy with another child, set a timer for both of them. They both can alternate when the set time elapses.
- Let your child work out minor squabbles. 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 them.
- No ifs. Make requests in language that assumes cooperation. “If you finish putting away your books or toys, we can go to the park,” suggests that perhaps your child won’t clean up their room. Try instead: “When you put your books or toys, we’ll go to the park.”
- Use sticker charts and rewards judiciously. “If your child is always working for the reward, they won’t learn the real reasons for doing things –But instead you can reserve rewards for future events, such as potty training, but avoid offering them for everyday things, such as dressing themselves or brushing their teeth.
- Praise is key, especially if your child is not in a cooperative phase. Try to catch them being good. Kids repeat behaviors that get attention.
- Expect more. Most people have a way of living up (or down) to expectations, even your young pre-schooler also. As young as they might be, we expect them to always clear their plates after eating or put on their stockings and shoes while preparing for school. It would sound out of line if you raised the bar and do a follow up for them to not just dress themselves up but also help pick out what they will wear or not just clearing the plates after eating but making a choice of what meal to eat. Raising the bar will only make them stretch to meet up.
- Resist doing for them what they can do themselves. While it may be quicker and easier to do it yourself, it won’t help to make them more self-sufficient. The trick here is to appeal to their pride. Once you ask a child if you can help them do the regular fun activities or do they want to do it themselves, they always want to do it themselves
- Let them solve simple problems. If you see your child trying to get a book from a shelf by standing on a stool to reach it, for example, 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 cheat them of the chance to experience success.”
Assign a chore. Putting your preschoolers in charge of a regular, simple task will build their 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, not busy work since even preschoolers know the difference. The goal is to make your child feel like a capable, contributing member of the family and the society