Parenting can be super frustrating for both parent and child when parents don’t understand what’s age appropriate for children to do. For example, if parents expect toddlers to understand the meaning of the word, “no,” then when toddlers don’t “obey” (in the parent’s mind), parents usually perceive that the toddler is being defiant. Read What Does Your Child Under 3 Know About No, an excerpt from Positive Discipline The First Three Years [Three Rivers Press, 2007.]
Toddlers are still learning about language and how it works. “Don’t touch the glass” may well be interpreted as “touch the glass” by a toddler. (Do not touch is asking toddler to understand two verbs that contradict each other.) I’ve observed a parent saying, “Don’t touch the glass” and the toddler smiled and immediately touched the glass. Instead of saying, “Don’t touch the glass,” a parent might have more success with “Walk over here to me” or “Here, hold this ball.”
Parents often tell me stories of preschoolers getting into make up, art supplies, etc. and making huge messes. Parents of preschoolers can keep preschoolers busy with open ended activities such as building with blocks, water play, sandbox play and dress up. Preschoolers’ brains are wired to explore. Setting up activities helps provide them with lots of exploration time and then parents can be nearby to supervise and set boundaries about the exploration. Preschoolers still need tons of supervision. If you know how to set up the environment to stimulate a preschooler’s brain, typical preschoolers will sometimes stay busy in play for an entire hour while you get laundry done or rest nearby.
One of the best ways to prevent misbehavior is by understanding typical development and providing children with age appropriate activities to keep them engaged.
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