The terrible twos were not so terrible for us, but the ‘challenging threes’ are another story entirely. Preschoolers are fun, very independent, have endless energy and imagination, and test their boundaries on a daily basis. Parents of preschoolers must show ultimate patience in order to teach their children how to get along with others, follow rules, and understand their effect on others. As a parent, you may have noticed that your child can make you angry one minute, and the next minute you are laughing at your child for being the funniest person alive. You must remember this when your child is testing limits. There are moments when I want to lock myself in a room and never come out, but the reality is- sometimes a time-out for both a parent and a child is exactly what is needed.
By age 3 most children are beginning to understand the connection between actions and consequences. You need to make it clear to them if they do something wrong. For example say, “Johnny, walls are not to be drawn on” and give him an alternative solution such as, “paper is the only place that you are to draw on.” Then make sure he or she understands the consequences if they do it again. “If you do it again, you will have to clean it up and you will not be able to use your pen/pencils/crayons/paint for X amount of time.”
If they are willful and talk back (like mine) then a time-out (usually the same number of minutes as their age or until they calm down) in a boring place may be useful. You want it to be enough time for them to think about their actions, but not enough time for them to become resentful. Every child is different. My daughter hates to be separated from me, so in situation where she will not listen and continues doing the unwanted behavior, not being able to play with me (while on a time-out) works well. For others it may be taking away TV time or a favorite toy. Use time-outs sparingly. Some parents give their child something to think about or have them come up with a solution to the problem during the time-out, “What would you do if I did something I wasn’t supposed to?” Make sure if you establish a rule, and it is broken, it has a consequence. Follow through with your consequence or your child will take this as a sign that every rule can be broken. Consistency is key for all parental figures. Praise them when they do something right, “I was so proud of you for sharing ‘your time’ with me with the other kids at the park”. I know, I know, this is all easy to say but harder to follow through on.
No parent is perfect, but all we can do is strive to be the best we can. Given that preschoolers mimic their parents, if we’re lucky maybe they will strive to be their best too. We just have to give them the tools, have patience and be consistent in our actions, and hopefully they will learn to be aware, thoughtful little people that treat others well and follow general rules (at least the important ones).