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8 Mistakes Parents Make With Preschoolers

Find out how you can avoid these common parenting missteps.
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3. Missing the Warning Signs

Parents often try to reason with children when they're in the throes of a temper tantrum, repeating, "Calm down, calm down." But that's like trying to reason with a goldfish, Borba says. "You've got power immediately beforehand when you can still distract or anticipate. But once the tantrum is in full force, you've lost it. The kid is not hearing you."

Fix it: Figure out and anticipate what your kid's natural warning signs are, Borba says. The usual ones are hunger, fatigue, and boredom.

So don't take your child to the supermarket unless she's napped or you've stashed a healthy snack in your purse.

4. Encouraging Whining

Does your child's whining drive you crazy? For instance, does it drive you up the wall when, right before dinnertime while getting ready to preparing food, your child starts crying, "I wanna go to the park," or "I wanna go play with Riley."

Borba says parents often give in to these whines, but this only reinforces the attention-getting behavior. Your child will figure out which buttons to push and then push them over and over again.

"This is the age when your children come out of their shells," she says. "Watch out, because they figure out what works."

Fix it: Ignore it.

For behavior that isn't aggressive, like a whine or sulk, you're better off if you don't respond to it at all. If you're consistent, Borba says, your child will think, "Well, that didn't work."

5. Overscheduling Your Child

Parents often line up a slew of activities, like dance or music classes. Then they wonder why their child isn't getting in bed and falling asleep right away after so many activities that must have made her tired.

The problem, Altmann says, is that they're still wound up and need time to calm down. Every child needs down time, especially preschoolers, she says. Whether your child is at preschool for two hours or there all day, it can be very exhausting.

Fix it: Don't overschedule your child or shuttle him from one activity to the next. Give your child time to unwind with free play when he gets home from school.

6. Underestimating the Importance of Play

Many parents feel they should sign their children up for enrichment programs to give them an edge. But that's not really the case.

What's most enriching at this age, says psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen, author of Playful Parenting, is free play. That includes dramatic play (make believe), rough housing, and goofing around.

"Free play is how children's brains develop best," he says. "In play, children will naturally give themselves the right amount of challenge -- not too easy or too hard."

Fix it: Allow your child time and space for free play. Remember that preschoolers define play as "what you do when you get to choose what to do."

Free choice -- the voluntary aspect of play -- is important, Cohen says. "Preschoolers love to vacuum or do housework, but it's play. It's not on their chore list. They've chosen to do it and they're just doing it for fun," he says.

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