I am a parent of a three year old child. Recently I have been struggling with day to day activities as my child is starting to act-up when asked to do anything. For example when it’s time to leave the house to go the market and I ask her to put on her coat, she runs away from me or tells me no. When I tell her not to do that we end up in a conflict where we both get frustrated and angry. Please, can you help me!
What you are experiencing is very typical in the development of three and four year old children. During the preschool years children are beginning to assert their independence and power. The opportunity to assert his or her power is good for the child’s social/emotional development, however they need guidance to know when it is appropriate.
Throughout the day giving acceptable choices such as, “Do you want to wear this outfit or that outfit?” or “Do you want to put your coat on yourself or with my help?” gives him or her the opportunity to control a small piece of their world. Another way to give a choice is to have your child choose the order of tasks he or she needs to complete. For example, “Do you want to use the toilet before or after you brush your teeth?” This way all the necessary task are being completed at the same time your child is feeling empowered.
It is great to give choices whenever possible however there are times when a choice is not suitable. This is when power struggles between an adult and child can surface. One technique in avoiding a power struggle is the use of positive directives. Nobody likes to be told no or that they cannot do what they want. Using a positive direction tells the child what to do instead of what not to do. For example, “It’s time to leave you can put your coat on.” Rather than asking can you put your coat on you are telling them you can. Changing the way you speak to a child takes practice and consistency, over time the use of this language will feel more natural. Remember being a parent is a job that contains the biggest challenges but also gives the biggest rewards!