1) promoting communication and listening skills;
2) developing self regulation through consistent modeling;
3) responding to challenging behaviors.
We encourage you to ask questions and keep an ongoing conversation with us during this important time.
During the preschool years your child’s language is developing at a rapid rate. Even prior to preschool, a child’s receptive language, the language they can understand, soars hundreds of words ahead of their expressive language, the words they can say. While expressive language grows vastly during preschool, this fact continues to be true. This contributes to why preschoolers often cry, hit, or grab to communicate their wants. While this type of communication is developmentally expected in the early stages of preschool, this is also the time that children begin to understand that these types of behaviors are not appropriate or acceptable. It is through adult communication and modeling that children will begin to understand this. When your child uses her emotions rather than words to communicate her feelings, you must ask her to use her words. It will take time for your child to understand that using language is better than crying, whining, or hitting. But with consistent responses such as “please, use your words,” “I can’t understand what you want or need when you whine,” and “take a deep breath, and tell me with your words,” they will begin to change this behavior and understand that whining, hitting, or crying are not appropriate ways to handle a situation.
Language and reasoning are the key tools that parents and educators use to teach preschoolers the essential and emerging skill of self-control. This is not an easy task. It is often easier to control children with direct commands rather than teach them how to control themselves. While effective and convenient, this will not teach your child how to make good decisions on his own. The first step to help children understand reasoning is to build good listening skills. While preschoolers often appear to not be listening, sometimes this is unintentional, as they are so engrossed in their activity that they simply don’t hear you. The first step in building this skill is to model good listening skills. Here are some helpful hints on how you can build these skills outside of school, that will support the strategies we are using in the classroom:
- When your child is speaking to you, give him your full attention. We are all multi-tasking masters, but this is a time for individual attention.
- Put down your cell phone, turn and look at your child and repeat what he says. This modeling of eye contact and attention communicates that this is how to be a good listener.
- When your child exhibits these good listening behaviors, reinforce this by giving her specific feedback, such as, “Thank you for listening,” or “Thank you for coming inside when I asked you to. That is good listening.
Once you establish the importance of listening, your child will understand why they need to listen. This doesn’t mean that your child will always listen to you. You will need to remind her often. Get down to your child’s level and say, “Stop what you’re doing. Look at me. I need you to listen. Can you repeat what I want you to do?” With consistency and firmness, your child will begin to develop better listening skills. Keep in mind that this will not always work. There are times when your child may be choosing to ignore you. When your child is not listening and refuses to do so, you will need to use redirection. Our upcoming posts will focus on how to consistently respond to misbehavior with redirection.