Preschoolers have unique discipline needs. Use these preschool-specific tips to keep little ones moving in the right direction.
- Stay cool. Teaching preschoolers is a very important job that requires consistency and a calm attitude. Occasionally preschoolers can put your patience to a grueling test. If you feel overly frustrated, cool down as needed. Breathe slowly and deeply, pray for guidance, and collect yourself before you attempt to discipline a child who’s pushed you to the limit.
- Build foundations. Discipline is training that strengthens. Discipline takes time, patience, and commitment.
- Don’t chastise. Punishing in anger to reform a preschooler’s behavior damages self-esteem and often results in a child becoming angry and retaliating. Never tell a child he or she is bad.
- Let kids emote. Preschoolers throw tantrums—it’s a developmental certainty. Limit your reaction and give kids a place where they can calm down and feel safe. Allow angry preschoolers to vent their emotions in safe and appropriate ways—deep breaths, throwing feathers, running, drawing, and acting out their emotions with props such as stuffed animals.
- Praise good behavior. Set positive expectations that challenge kids. Listen and pay attention to kids’ behavior.
- Keep a routine. Every time you meet with kids, maintain the same routine so they know what to expect. Alternate between active and calming activities to keep kids interested and to meet their need for movement.
Preschoolers love repetition. Remind kids when a transition is coming to keep it smooth.
- Give everything a place. Preschoolers need order to feel safe and secure. Order and tidiness contribute to kids’ sense of well-being and help them focus.
- No never means yes. Don’t give in or feel guilty. Preschoolers learn to manipulate quickly, so say no firmly and mean it. Be clear, sound like you mean it, and use serious facial expressions.
- Logical consequences teach responsibility. If children don’t pick up toys, they can’t play with them next time. If a child uses a bad word, give him a new word to say. Use logic kids can follow when setting consequences.
- Know your kids. By making personal connections with kids, you’ll know how to discipline them in a way that makes them stronger. Keep your rules simple. Don’t overreact to behavior missteps.
Charlotte Inskeep has been a child care specialist for more than 20 years in Colorado.