I am excited to bring you a fabulous guest post today! What a timely topic – I learned a few things from this former preschool teacher! Give it up for Kari! Leave her lots of comment love! Check out what she has to say on her blog! Hey – you’ll even see me over there today!
There are so many little strategies and tools that preschool teachers use every day to keep their classrooms peaceful. Not surprisingly, many of these strategies are ones you can use at home with your child!
I have compiled my favorite tips and tricks from my preschool teaching days that I hope will improve communication with your child, and in turn, their behavior!
1. Keep your rules to a minimum.
To me, this means having a few important rules in place that will be easy for your child to remember. Somewhere around 3-5 rules for preschool aged children. (Such as: Be safe, Be kind, and Listen to Mommy.)
2. Set your child up for success.
Arrange your home environment, and your daily plans and activities with your child’s needs first. Instead of making it a rule that your child cannot climb on this, or touch that, put things they may not touch where they can’t reach, and arrange the environment so that your child will have more freedom. If you know your child is cranky and needs a nap, put your errands off until later. This will reduce the number of rules you have to have and will also reduce frustrations between you and your child.
3. Keep instructions short.
Young children have an especially hard time understanding complex sentences. Instead of giving multi-step instructions, break them down into parts and give them one step at a time. Use as few words as possible to get your point across. Instead of saying, “It’s time to clean up, will you please help Mommy put your toys away where they go” try “Clean up the toys”.
4. Say what you want them to do- not what you don’t want them to do.
This goes along with using as few words as possible to get your point across. Since children have trouble keeping track of complex sentences, telling them “don’t hit”, or “don’t bite” means you’re telling them an action and then they have to think about how to not do that action. Many times they will only hear the last word you say, so instead of hearing “don’t bite”, they hear “bite”!
Instead of saying “no running” try “walk”. It gives them the direction of what they SHOULD be doing.
5. Routine. (Notice, I did not say “strict schedule”.)
Having a daily routine helps your child to have control over their life. Imagine what it would feel like for you if you never knew what was going to come next in your day, every day- you would feel powerless and want to be defiant just to assert your independence over some events. By having a daily flow, children know what to expect next, which makes them feel more in control.
6. Give your child choices.
This ties in with number 4- children will feel more in control in their day and have less of a need to rebel when you let them make choices for themselves (when you can). Offering small choices (with just two options), such as what shirt to wear, what snack to eat or whether to play inside or outside not only allows your child to feel empowered, but will also reduce frustration in other parts of your day. Another benefit is that it shows your child that you respect their opinions!
7. Keep punishments short, age appropriate, consistent and fitting to the crime.
(example: if you spill your cereal on purpose, help clean it up)
I believe that too often, punishment is about the adult’s anger rather than the child’s behavior. (So a time out for Mommy might be more useful than the other way around!)
Young children do not benefit from long punishments- they forget why they are being punished and instead feel distressed, so it does not help with behavior modification. At my previous preschool, they would do time-outs in extreme situations, and it was limited to 1 minute of time-out per year old the child is (Example: 1 year = 1 minute time out, 2 years = 2 minute time out) Personally, I feel that time-outs are generally not very effective. Instead, punishments should be related to the problem- if you draw on the wall, you have to clean it off! This helps to make an association in your child’s mind that if they do x, then y will happen!
Keep in mind that your child is more likely to act up if they are sick, tired, or hungry- so refer to step 2.
8. Have realistic, age appropriate expectations.
I think this is the hardest thing to remember as a parent. Keep in mind that your child is only a child, and that they are still learning and generally don’t mean to push your buttons. I think that when an undesirable behavior occurs (and it is not a safety issue) then the best thing to do is to take a deep breath, and to think about it from the child’s point of view. (Are they teething, itchy, hot, thirsty or tired? Have they been trying to get your attention for a while? Is it a new and fun to see what happens when they throw their food?) It is important to show grace to your child and understand that accidents do happen sometimes (even YOU drop things, make a mess or spill sometimes!) They are still learning, and you are their most important teacher.
I hope that this list helps you to try out a new strategy or two the next time you feel frustrated or out of options. Although not every trick will work for every parent in every situation, it is helpful to keep some tricks in the back of your mind!Kari is Mommy to Elodie (www.mommytoelodie.tumblr.com)