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What parenting experts wish you knew about preschoolers

A native of the storied coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina, Julie Sprankles has been a lover of words her entire life. As a Southerner, she certainly has what her mama calls “the gift of gab.” When she’s not writing, Julie can be...

From sleep to sass

Parenting a preschooler can be tricky... there's no handbook for how to handle every situation toddlerhood throws at you. We gleaned tips from five leading parenting experts to help you navigate some of the major preschooler conundrums.

He or she needs 11 to 13 hours of sleep every night

"When children become overtired they get cranky, which can increase the bedtime struggles," explains Dr. Christine Briccetti, a pediatrician at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, Maryland. "Parents will sometimes react by keeping them up later to try to tire them out, which exacerbates the problem. Offer rewards for nights without struggle, but try not to scold or punish your child if they are resistant. Remember, you have control over when your child goes to bed, not when he or she falls asleep. If they are unable to fall asleep quickly, the rule should be that they have to remain lying quietly in bed."

It's OK if your kid isn't potty trained by 2

"The average age at which a child will start to show interest in learning to potty train is around 2 years, but it's a bell-shaped curve — some will go earlier and others not until 3 or even 4," clarifies Dr. Mark Wolraich, professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Chores are good for your preschooler

"One of the most important building blocks to raising responsible children is chores. Surprisingly, even toddlers can pitch in. Here's a list of what your kids can do to help around the house," says Dr. Ann Pleshette Murphy, parenting expert and author. "2- to 4-year-olds can help set the table, sort cutlery, help with dinner (shred lettuce, stir, pour from small pitcher), fetch and transport things (clothing, toys, books, etc.), put away toys, put dirty clothes in a hamper or basket, help feed pets, dust with socks on their hands and help sponge off small surfaces."

TV may help now, but it will hinder later

"How much screen time should your toddler or preschooler have? Are you ready?" poses Dr. Laura Markham, clinical psychologist, mother and author. "In my opinion, no daily time on an ongoing basis. Of course, screens are a terrific babysitter. If you have a new baby in the family, or you're trying to get some essential alone time with each of your kids, if you're eating a restaurant meal or have a long car ride, it's my vote that screen time is worth the risk. But if you routinely use TV so you can get stuff done, you're actually shaping your child's brain so that he will be less able to entertain himself over time... it's better to find a babysitter or a preschool program for a few hours a day. Risking your child's brain development is too high a price to pay for keeping him busy."

You can't take sass-talk personally

"I know it's really hard when your precious little guy starts talking like that. But don't take it personally. He's just trying out the strength and power those new words have. He sees how much impact they have at school, and wants to 'try them on for size' at home," offers Dr. Heather Wittenberg, a psychologist specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers and parents. "If he says those things to you, try not to overreact, but use it as a lesson. I think you heard your friend talking like that today, but I know you can talk more nicely. If you're mad, say 'Mommy, I'm mad' instead. Can we try that again? It's important that you don't get emotional about it. Remember that he's testing out some new phrases. Staying low-key about it — but setting the limit about what's allowed (and what's not allowed) — will help him to learn how to use his words most effectively (and politely)... otherwise, you run the risk of putting too much emphasis on those powerful words, and he'll be tempted to get into a power struggle with you about it."

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