5 Ways to reason with a preschooler
Helping her adjust
Parents who have dealt with preschoolers before you can attest to the fact that reasoning with them is never easy. Still, you often need to find some common ground especially in the midst of a difficult situation.
For many kids, preschool is their first exposure to other children their age. Up to this point, their world has revolved around themselves and you. Now they’re being asked to let other kids touch their teddy bear? Here are five common preschooler situations and expert advice to help you cope as your child learns to adjust.
During a play date, a visiting friend dares to touch a coveted toy. Your preschooler quickly melts down and starts grabbing the toy, refusing to share.
"Before your preschooler’s play date guest arrives, ask him to pick three or four special toys that he doesn’t want to share. Show your child that you are putting them away so his guest won’t touch them and explain that everything else is fair game or ‘share’ toys. If your child melts down when his friend dares to touch a share toy, narrate how hard it is to share and take turns by saying, ‘Mommy is helping you practice sharing.’ This is one of the main goals of play dates." — Dr. Fran Walfish, child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent
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During a trip to the supermarket, your preschooler asks you to buy him a treat. You say no and a fit ensues.
"Often the ‘no’ tantrum is caused because preschoolers don’t have the verbal ability to express their feelings. Whenever possible, a parent could verbalize the feelings that might be underlying this behavior such as, ‘I know you must feel really angry/sad that Mommy won’t let you have that treat now. I understand, but having that treat now is not a good idea. How about helping me find something for dessert tonight?’ Children at this age can be easily distracted and often this alternative can be enough to stop the fit." — Dr. Andrea Weiner (Dr. Andie), author of More Than Saying I Love You: 4 Powerful Steps That Help Children Love Themselves, child psychologist and parenting coach
Read about 5 fast ways to stop a tantrum >>
During a summer afternoon trip to the pool, your preschooler is asked to share her snacks of grapes with her older siblings but she's not in the sharing mood.
"Sharing among preschoolers is something they have to learn because they are still pretty egocentric. However, it has to be practiced and ultimately becomes an important social skill. In this situation, a parent could say, ’Sharing your grapes with your sister would make her feel very happy. You’ll feel happy, too, because you are doing something nice for someone else.’ They feel that they are gaining something in sharing rather than losing whatever they don’t want to give up. Also, it is teaching them about the feelings of others, which is a precursor to empathy." — Dr. Andie
Read about raising considerate kids of all ages >>
No to picking up
The house is a disaster and preschooler's toys are strewn across the family room. Mom asks him to help clean up and he refuses.
"It’s best to ask your preschoolers to clean up their toys immediately after playing with them. Kids must learn cause and effect. If your child resists and refuses, say, ‘Show Mommy how you can pick up your toys and put them away or Mommy will help you.’ Wait a silent count to two, then physically place your hand over your child’s and help him pick up the toys and place them in the proper place. Be sure to immediately praise your child for doing a good job. Once he learns that resistance and refusal fail to get him out of his responsibility, he will require less physical assistance." — Dr. Walfish
Read about involving your child in daily chores >>
Don't want to go
You’ve enjoyed a lovely afternoon at the park with some friends. When it's time to go, you gather your things and ask your preschooler to start heading to the car. She doesn't want to leave and suddenly becomes very stubborn about the situation.
"Preschoolers are not very good at transitions at this age. The best approach for parents is to give them time to prepare for the transition, such as a five-minute warning. They really have no sense of time so we have to help them with this. The transition time allows them time to learn to make the change and to switch from one activity to another in an easier fashion." — Dr. Andie
"If your child resists after a five-minute warning, tell him with genuine empathy that you ‘know it’s hard to stop when you’re having fun. Show me how you can hold Mommy’s hand and walk with me to the car or I will help you.’ Wait a silent count to two then physically put your arm around your child’s waist and walk him to the car. Your child may kick and scream but he needs to know that you are more powerful than he. He must learn that if he doesn’t want to comply with reasonable commands, a supportive parent or authority figure will help him be accountable." — Dr. Walfish
Read more about parenting preschoolers