The years from ages 3-6 are an important time to teach your child how to be an independent person, make good decisions, understand consequences and be safe. Check out these 7 important guidelines in a recent blog by Glenn E. Kaplan, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.
As children strive to gain more independence, they need to feel they can make it on their own. Give them opportunities in which to test themselves, reason things out, problem-solve and experience the consequences of their actions. Try these 7 guidelines for helping your preschooler learn how to safely grow in independence.
1) It’s important to set limits and establish consequences
Appropriate discipline, along with praise, is an important way to help your child develop into a responsible, well-adjusted adult. When he/she crosses the line and does something against the rules, explain in a few simple words how the behavior was wrong and what will happen if it continues. Consequences need to be meaningful and simple.
2) Create routines your youngster can depend on
Daily routines help kids feel secure because they know what to expect from day to day, such as when to get dressed, take a bath, brush teeth and read a story before bed. Helping your child turn these repetitions into habits will establish a daily rhythm that will stay with him/her throughout life.
3) Take time to talk and more importantly, listen, to your child
Young children feel important when adults, especially their parents, take the time to talk with them. Talking often and about different things helps them gain self-confidence. Ask your child about his/her experiences, likes/dislikes, thoughts, dreams, friendships, games and favorite songs. You’ll be amazed at what this can do to your child’s self-esteem.
4) Assign your child simple chores
When young children mimic and carry out your everyday household tasks, they’re really learning to contribute, which helps build good self-esteem. As they grow older, they can begin to take on age-appropriate responsibilities and chores, such as setting the table, putting away toys and putting their dirty clothes in a hamper.
5) Encourage your child to dress himself/herself
This may take a lot longer than dressing your child yourself but it is time well spent. Little by little, independence will come with practice and with your guidance.
6) Very important: Teach your child appropriate ssafety around adults
Keeping your child safe is one of your most crucial jobs as a parent. It’s important for your child to respect and trust adults, but he/she also needs to learn to be careful and not be too trusting.
7) Help your preschooler become a good friend
Four- to six-year-olds are still learning what it means to be a friend, which includes everything from games and laughs to arguments and hurt feelings. Although it might be tempting for you to try to solve your child’s problems yourself or go to the other child’s parent, it’s far better for your child to work out the solution himself/herself. Help your child understand the other child’s point of view and use words to describe what he/she is feeling (“I guess Sam wants a turn on the swing too.”)
To read Dr. Kaplan’s blog in full, click here.