Tonight I was asked to be a panel member for a discussion on parenting preschoolers. Apparently just surviving four of them makes me an expert. We got to speak to some younger moms who were worried because *gasp* their preschoolers were naughty and full of energy. Hopefully, by the end of the evening we managed to convince them that they were not alone – all preschoolers are evil geniuses in disguise.
In all seriousness, though, there are a few things I’ve learned as I’ve navigated the perilous waters of preschoolerdom:
1. Remember that the word discipline comes from the word disciple. Our children are on loan from Heavenly Father and He has a vested interest in seeing them return to Him. Ask for guidance and you’ll get it.
2. Never let ’em see you sweat. Preschoolers live to see Mommy lose her cool.
3. Don’t always jump in to solve your child’s problems. This is one of the biggest parenting mistakes I see. I spent several years working for a well known child psychologist. My job was to help children who were seriously struggling in school learn how to succeed. These children consisted of three basic groups. Group one had learning disabilities. This group was easy to help. It was just a matter of finding the right adaptation. Group two were the gang members, run aways, survivors of abuse, etc. They, too, were easy to help. They just needed someone, anyone, to let them know that they were intelligent, important, capable human beings. Giving them high expectations was like giving them the world. Group three were typically children of the rich and famous. They had been coddled and protected for their entire lives, and they had absolutely no self confidence. When presented with anything new or different, they would freeze. They were so terrified of making mistakes that they would refuse to try anything that might be a challenge. In being over protective, their parents had crippled them. These children were far and away the hardest to help. In order to grow and learn, children MUST be allowed to make mistakes, face consequences, and even get hurt sometimes. By letting them solve their own problems and face difficult situations (within reason, of course), we are teaching them that they are capable and are helping them to become independent.
4. Consistency is KEY. You must say what you mean and mean what you say. For example, if you say you’re going to count to three and then take a toy away, mean it. One…two…three…There goes the toy.
5. Just when you’ve got child A figured out, along comes child B and you find yourself in a whole new ball game. Just the thought of dealing with Jakob as a preschooler leaves me quaking in my boots.
6. Most importantly, learn to laugh! Preschoolers are wonderfully mischievous, inquisitive, creative little bundles of energy. And yes, they are ALL naughty. But the things they do today that make you want to put them up for sale on e-bay become the stories you’ll cherish in years to come. My children love to hear about the time that Sarah drove our car through the garage door, or the time Emma cut her hair to the scalp – TO THE SCALP! We have lots of naughty stories for Joshua. Take the time he and his friend decided to turn my brand new bedroom into a bat cave. They painted it red with my brightest, juiciest, deep red stamp pad. My bedroom was red, my bathroom was red, my carpet was red, Joshua was red, his friend was red, and Joshua’s closet was red (they hid there when they realized that they were probably going to get in trouble). And guess what – the red came out (with lots of bleach), Joshua learned that scrubbing walls is no fun, and we still laugh about it to this day.
Preschoolers – they aren’t for the faint of heart, but they’re sure a lot of fun. Now go enjoy your little ones!