Empowering Your Preschooler

Preschoolers are power-hungry. It’s just part of their development, and they’re not shy about letting everyone know what stage they’re at.

NO becomes a favorite word, used with great frequency and even greater volume. However wonderful it is to realize your preschooler is right on target with her growing sense of independence, it can also be a difficult stage through which to navigate peacefully.

Craft Your Questions

By changing your wording, you can get what you want while giving your preschooler the power to choose. One caregiver calls it ‘the false choice’ method.

If it’s time to brush, ask: “Would you like to brush your teeth before or after your bath?” If it’s time to get into pajamas, the style of the question remains the same: “Would you like to wear your firetruck pajamas or the Elmo ones?” In each instance, you are allowing your preschooler some control while steering his behavior.

Never Say No

Unless it’s a safety issue and saying a resounding NO is imperative, say “yes” to everything your preschooler wants. You just need to get your wording right again. A few example answers might be: “Yes, we’ll play after you eat this piece of broccoli” or “Yes, you can jump on the bed when mommy’s holding your hands”; and “The wall is not for painting, but here’s a big piece of paper you can paint on.”

The last response did contain a negative but still provided an opportunity to realize the child’s desire to paint. You could continue with this by adding that you’ll hang her paintings on the wall when they’re dry.

Trust Your Preschooler

If your child utterly refuses to put on a sweater (which has been known to happen), bring it along to the playground. Trust your child to know if he really needs it, and most times he’ll ask for it if he, in fact, feels cold.

If your preschooler is the kind that would happily play in the snow completely naked, then simply make the playground visit conditional on her wearing suitable clothing (“We’ll go to the playground as soon as you’re dressed!”).

Make It Fun

Kids like to race. If you need to get your preschooler dressed in a hurry, or pick up some toys, make it a competition. (“I can get my pants on first!”) Doing chores together (like putting toys away or folding laundry) is always more fun and can be made into ‘events.’

Ultimately, it’s more the approach than the answer that will ease your parenting duties during this phase of preschool development. You’ve got to be fairly quick-witted to offer alternatives that get you the behavior you’re hoping for, but it gets easier – and faster – with practice.