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Tips for Disciplining a Preschooler

Tips for Disciplining a Preschooler

For the most part, Liam is a pretty easy-going kid. But over the past six months or so, it became clear that we needed a plan when it came to discipline and limit setting. From the beginning, Brad and I have been equal partners in parenting and this area has been no exception. We decided together what was acceptable and what wasn’t and how we were going to handle it when Liam needed to be disciplined. The trouble for me was coming to the realization that I’m naturally a little bit of a softy. Some combination of my natural personality as a compromiser/peacemaker and working mom guilt causes me to unconsciously allow for a little wiggle room when it comes to the rules in order to keep a happy and harmonious household.

At first it was fine, or at least I thought it was. Then Liam got used to having a little wiggle room on the rules and started pushing the limits more. If I let him stay up for an extra five minutes one night, the next night he wanted another 10. If he got an extra snack one day in the car, all of sudden that “extra” snack became expected. I could also see we were falling into a “good cop/bad cop” situation that didn’t work for us. Discipline is battle, but it’s one we need to fight as a unified front.

Discipline is still something I’m working at but there are a few rules of engagement I’ve discovered so far in my attempts at disciplining a preschooler.

Tips for Preschool Discipline

1. Figure out what is negotiable and what isn’t. Liam is a wheeler and dealer when it comes to pushing limits. He loves a good negotiation over what constitutes “one bite”, why he needs to bring three toys to school and why he absolutely has to watch an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Some things I’m willing to make a deal over (like eating four green peppers instead of two peppers and two carrots) but others I’m firm about (holding hands in a parking lot is non-negotiable). Giving him some wiggle room in some areas has seemed to make it easier for him to accept the things where there is none.

2. Get (and stay) on the same page as your parenting partner. While we had a “plan” for discipline, I definitely didn’t always follow it. Our discipline style now represents a compromise (Brad still tends to be more strict and I tend to be more lenient) so we meet somewhere in the middle with a quasi-positive discipline style.

3. Stop and insist on eye contact when your’re communicating. This one seems to make a huge difference for Liam. If we’re over a friend’s house and we’re leaving in five minutes, I find he’s much better at accepting this if I get down on his level, make him stop what he’s doing and look me in the eye while I tell him that.

4. Follow through every time. As time has gone by I’m trying to be more careful with my ultimatums knowing that they only work if I’m able to follow through. Telling Liam we’re going right home if he doesn’t behave doesn’t work unless we’re actually willing and able to go right home. It is amazing though – I’ve found the ultimatum is a really powerful tool once Liam knows we meant business.

Editor’s Note: In a recent webinar – Parenting: Being Proactive & Positive – Bright Horizons and Amy McCready shared proactive parenting techniques that foster good behavior and eliminate the power struggle that often fuels bad behavior. Watch now!

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