8 Mistakes Parents Make With Preschoolers
Find out how you can avoid these common parenting missteps.
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.
7. Getting Distracted By the Daily Grind
Your child may play well independently, but that doesn't mean he or she doesn't crave your attention. "There's something children miss out on if parents don't get on the floor and play with them," Cohen says.
Not only do parents not get down and play, many parents are too easily distracted by their cell phone, email, or other multitasking. "Kids aren't dumb," Cohen says. "They know whether we're really paying attention or not."
Fix it: Set a timer, be enthusiastic, and stay involved for your designated play period with your child.
"A half an hour of concentrated play where you give your undivided attention and you're not worried about dinner or work," Cohen says, "is better than all day when you're only half paying attention."
8. Overreacting to Lies
Cohen says lying really freaks parents out. He urges parents to see the behavior as experimenting rather than as "a moral thing."
"When children start to lie, it's a big cognitive advance," he says. "It's kind of exciting and a little bit scary. It has an emotional charge. But then parents freak out and have visions of their child in prison, so they get very tense and anxious about it."
Fix it: Don't overreact. Know that telling a fib or two is a normal part of your child's development.
And don't get hung up on the lie itself, Cohen says. For instance, if your little Pinocchio is denying he had anything to do with a spill, you can say matter-of-factly, "You feel bad about that and I understand."
Effective parenting takes time, patience, and love. It also takes remembering that changes may not happen overnight. But as the old maxim goes, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." And again.