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Health & Parenting

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8 Mistakes Parents Make With Preschoolers

Find out how you can avoid these common parenting missteps.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD

Sometimes, it may seem like your preschooler has the innate ability to push you to the outer edge of your patience. And that's on a good day.

Fear not, moms and dads. You're not alone. Preschoolers want to own their newfound independence. But they also want the close attention and love of their caregivers.

Michele Borba, EdD, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, says, "These ages (3-5) are among the most active and frustrating in terms of parenting.

Here are eight common mistakes parents of preschoolers make and some smart fixes to help avoid or resolve problems.

1. Straying Too Much From Routines

Consistency is key for preschoolers, says pediatrician Tanya Remer Altmann, author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions about Babies and Toddlers.

When you're not being consistent with your routine, preschoolers get confused and may act out more or throw more temper tantrums. Altmann says, "If sometimes you let them do something and sometimes you don't, they don't understand."

Your child probably wants to know why last time Mommy let her play on the playground for 10 minutes when school got out but this time wants her to get in the car right away. Or why did Mommy laid down with her for 10 minutes last night while she fell asleep but now says she can't.

Fix it: Be consistent across the board -- whether it's with discipline, sleep habits, or mealtime routines.

Altmann says if your routine is consistent 90% of the time and your child is doing well, then so are you, and a minor exception may be OK.

2. Focusing on the Negative

It's easy to hone in on your child's negative actions -- like yelling and screaming -- and ignore the good ones.

Altmann says parents tend to focus on what they don't want their preschoolers to do. "They'll say, 'Don't hit. Don't throw. Don't say 'poopy pants,'" she says.

Fix it: Notice when your child is doing something positive, and reward the good behavior.

The reward for positive actions can be your praise, or it can be giving your child a big hug or kiss. "Those types of things really go a long way with preschoolers," Altmann says.

Tell your child, "I like the way you sat quietly and listened," or "That was good when you were so friendly to the child on the playground."

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