Like you, I am the parent of a preschooler and like you, I have experienced the frustration of a preschooler’s attitude. I once heard a friend say, “Whoever named it the terrible twos, never had a three year old!” Turning four brings a whole new set of issues. Let’s face it, preschoolers can have major attitude. So what are some ways that we can deal with our child when those moments happen? This month’s parenting class is all about attitude.
Nothing pushes a parent’s buttons more than being on the receiving end of back talk from their own child. But get into a major power struggle and you’ll just stress out more — yelling isn’t going to win you respect. Simply ignoring your kid’s attitude problem won’t make it disappear either. The biggest mistake we make is assuming rude behavior is a phase that will go away on its own. Your sweet baby is now an opinionated two or three year old. Suddenly bossiness and yelling are very common. You may have a snappy comeback yourself, but stop and take a moment. That smart comment may make you feel better, but don’t place yourself in a situation where you are arguing with your two year old. You are the adult and we need to remember to act like it. Don’t allow your frustration to force you to lose your temper with your child. Make it a teaching moment and let your child know how and what they should have said. Then give them the opportunity to make it right. Help them focus and understand what you expect from them.
Sometimes, kids are just seeking a reaction from you. The truth is that bad behavior often results in them receiving more attention from you than good behavior does. Make sure that you praise and acknowledge the good times as well as the bad. When they do talk back, don’t take the bait, but don’t ignore them either. Establish a statement to use in these situations. Something like: “That is not how we talk to each other. Let’s try again.”
Although preschoolers often want to be helpful, they also like to assert their independence at times. It’s common for them to say, “No!” when you tell them to do something. They often like to find out what happens when they break the rules or act defiantly.Establish a list of household rules and make the negative consequences for breaking those rules clear. Be consistent in your discipline, because preschoolers will likely to try to get away with misbehavior as long as they think there’s a small chance they won’t get in trouble.Use positive reinforcement to encourage compliance. Praise and reward systems can increase the likelihood that your preschooler will follow directions.
Most preschoolers have gained some mastery over temper tantrums but still haven’t gained enough impulse control to prevent the occasional aggressive behavior. Hitting, kicking, and occasional biting can still be a problem. Respond to aggressive behavior with consistent discipline. Time outs can teach children how to calm themselves down. Taking away privileges can also be an effective consequence for aggression. Teach your child problem solving skills so they can resolve conflict peacefully. Also teach your child about feelings so they can express her emotions with words, instead of by acting out how they feels. Aggressive behavior should subside as your child masters those skills. Be on the lookout for our next email. We will give you some examples and some how-to’s that should help you deal with all that attitude.