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Taming Trouble: Discipline and Manners for Your Preschooler

7 tips for parents to help preschoolers master manners.
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No. 2: Be patient. continued...

Say, for example, you don't want your child digging up plants in the garden. Understand that it takes time for your child to test out if you really mean it. Then it takes awhile to understand why it's a bad idea.

"Just because you say it's a bad idea doesn't mean they necessarily believe you," she says. "So sometimes they just have to play out the necessary consequence for the behavior."

Some behaviors may go away within a matter of days or weeks, but others may take longer to change.

No. 3: Validate your child's feelings.

When it comes to discipline, parents need to be warm but firm, says Unruh. Listen to your child and validate the feelings causing the problem and then set firm limits when she is behaving inappropriately.

For example, if Maya hits her sibling, let her know what the consequences are, like a timeout. Then take her into another room to stop the behavior and give her a chance to calm down. You can say to her: “I see you’re upset and you handled your upset by hitting. What are you upset about?”

"Children can say what they're feeling if you give them that training," he says. "A huge side benefit is teaching the child empathy. A child learns through experience what it's like and ends up being very empathetic and compassionate to others."

No. 4: Listen.

Parents tend to focus strictly on the behavior and that's just the tip of the iceberg for the child's identity, Unruh says.

"Parents will say, 'How many times did I tell you to stop? Go to your room right now.' But there's no teaching or learning involved," he says. "You're just telling them to stop it because you want them to stop it."

Unruh suggests a 75/25 rule, which calls for listening 75% of the time and talking 25% of the time. And don't lecture.

"Autonomy and self-confidence flourish when parents are asking the child things instead of telling them all the time," he says.

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