Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers
We all know parenting can be hard.
Some key essentials to maintain a healthy relationship between parents and children includes:
* positive communication,
* clear directions, and
* consistent structure.
Keys to Communicating with Your Child
- Praise your child when she does something right. The more you praise a behavior, the more likely it is your child will behave the same way again.
- Pay attention to your child when he is talking to you or trying to communicate with you. Giving him your full attention will help you understand what he is telling you. It will also make him feel like you care about what he has to say.
- Set aside time each day to talk and play with your child. Creating a special time lets your child know she is important. It also strengthens the bond between the two of you.
Take time to listen to your child.
When your child is upset, active listening can go a long way in helping your child know that you hear him and understand what he is trying to say. Active listening can also be helpful in calming a situation and preventing a tantrum before it starts!
Let your child know when you think she has done something good.
Praising your child is an important way to encourage good behaviors. Sometimes it can also help to let your child overhear you praising him to someone else like a grandparent, teacher, spouse, or even a toy if no one else is around. When the praise seems sincere and honest, it can reinforce good behavior.
Read with your children.
Reading with your children helps to strengthen their vocabulary, knowledge, and understanding of their world. It also creates opportunities for you and your child to spend time enjoying each other. It is never too early to begin reading to your child, and no book is ever too short.
Make time to laugh and be silly.
So much of parenting is making sure your children are fed, clean, clothed, and doing what they are supposed to be doing. Taking time to just talk or play with your children shows them how much you care about them and want to be with them.
Keys to Giving Good Directions
- Make sure you have your child’s attention when you give a direction.
- Be clear about what you want your child to do and when she needs to do it.
- Ask your child to repeat the direction back to you to make sure he understands.
- Avoid asking questions when you want your child to do something. Asking a question gives your child the chance to say, “No!”
- Give one direction at a time.
- Model good listening skills during special playtime and give your child positive attention for good listening.
Keys to Creating Structure
- Consistency, predictability, and follow-through are important for creating structure in the home.
- Respond to your child’s behavior the same way every time. When you are consistent, the behaviors you like will happen more often and problem behaviors are less likely to happen.
- Routines and daily schedules help you and your child. You both know what to expect each day. Routines can also improve your child’s behavior and your relationship with your child.
- A family rule is a clear statement about behaviors that are never okay, such as hitting and running in the house. You can change your child’s behavior when there are clear consequences for breaking the rule.
- Keep things positive! Reward and praise your child for following routines and rules. This makes it more likely that your child will follow the routines and rules in the future.
Give your child choices.
Whenever possible, try to give your child choices. Ask your child, “Do you want A or B?” (“Do you want the red or the green shirt; the apple or the banana; this story or that story?”) If your child gets upset, calmly repeat, “Do you want A or B?” If there are two things you need the child to do such as getting in the bath and brushing her teeth, let the child choose which one to do first. Giving choices can help your child learn to be more independent, feel like she has some control, and reduce struggles.
Establish a routine and stick with it.
A routine is a set of steps you follow the same way each time. This means that the day’s activities are predictable. Morning routines, for example, can help you and your child get ready to leave the house on time. A bedtime routine can help your child sleep better and allow you more time for yourself. A dinner time routine can help your child eat healthy (no dessert before dinner!). If your child knows the routine, you will have fewer tantrums and power struggles during the day.
Use routines to prevent temper tantrums.
Establishing routines can help prevent temper tantrums. Many tantrums occur because children do not know what to expect during the day or do not want to do something they are asked to do. Routines take the guesswork out of the day’s activities. It may be helpful to teach your child the routine when you first start using it. A chart or nighttime song that spells out the routine may be helpful.
Children feel safe and know how to behave when they have a routine and know what to expect. Being predictable in all areas of a child’s life can reduce stress and improve children’s behavior. Examples include setting and enforcing rules and having a bed time and meal time routine.
Stagger wake-up times.
If you have more than one child, consider staggering wake-up times for children who need to get ready for school or childcare in the morning. Wake up the children who need the most help first and then move on to the children who need less help. This can help reduce your frustration in the mornings and get everyone where they need to be on time.