Is your preschooler talkative, striking up conversations with strangers and forever asking questions? Or is your preschooler shy and introverted, content to play along with his trucks or look at books?
Every child is unique, but sometimes parents interpret these characteristics as negative. They may try to force their preschooler to change, such as making a shy child join a large group at the playground. While it is important to encourage preschoolers to try new activities and learn to overcome uncomfortable situations, it is important that parents do this in a positive way.
Get to Know Your Preschooler
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Observe your preschooler during free play (unstructured, imaginative play). What kind of activities is he drawn to? What topics is he interested in? Does he seek out another company or play alone?
Expose your preschooler to different activities and settings and watch his reaction. Was he bored, enthusiastic, intimated, engrossed, curious, fearful?
Ask others (grandparents, teachers, daycare providers) how they see your preschooler? Many time these observations can be insightful. Is he helpful? Does he like to be in charge? What does he talk about with them?
Don’t Label Traits as Good or Bad
Instead of defining characteristics as good or bad, simply accept them at face value. There are strengths and weaknesses for all traits. The preschooler who is forever asking questions can be seen as bothersome…or curious. The loner preschooler can be viewed as shy…or independent.
The key to acceptance is attitude and interpretation. Make a commitment to finding the positives in your preschooler’s personality, instead of looking for flaws.
Set Your Preschooler up for Success
Once you’ve identified what makes your preschooler special, create opportunities to nurture these traits. Select activities and hobbies that make the most of your child’s abilities.
It is also your responsibility as a parent to accommodate your preschooler’s personality. For example, do not overwhelm a shy preschooler by inviting 30 kids to his birthday party when he might be more comfortable with one or two familiar friends. Likewise, don’t expect your high energy preschooler to endure a six-hour car trip without frequent stops and a bag full of games and activities.
Gear fun to your preschooler’s personality type. Active? Go to the park for a picnic and frisbee toss. Social? Schedule regular playdates. Athletic? Take him swimming or ice skating? Curious? Visit a bookstore or museum.
As preschoolers gain confidence, it will boost their willingness to try new things and confront new situations. Parents can give their preschoolers the gift of unconditional love and acceptance by recognizing that each child is precious and celebrating what makes each child unique.