“NO! I don’t want to brush my teeth! “I don’t want to wear this!” “I hit her because she took my toy!”

Sounds familiar? If you have a preschooler; it would be! Do you wonder what the reasons are; are the children trying to set the rules? Test the limits? Or express a feeling?

Well, it is probably all the above and more!

It is normal for a preschooler to break the rules or be rebellious, and these are attempts to asserting him or herself.

Do not be misled though, normal does not mean not trying to correct behavior or redirect it. Parents or caregivers still need to teach their children how to effectively express their feelings, needs and frustrations. If you laugh defiance off as being “funny”; it might progress into other and more serious issues at a later stage in life. Therefore, it is important for children to recognize it is you, parent or caregiver, who sets the rules and that obedience is expected.


Here are a few tips to do so in an effective and peaceful way:

  1. Be a role model. Express your own anger, fear, anxiety, and even happiness in a right manner.
  2. Be firm but respectful of the child’s personality and self-esteem.
  3. Deal with the situation immediately and do not put it off until later like when the guests leave, when I finish what I am working on, etc… This helps the child make the correct connections between their actions and the consequences
  4. Talk about the action to help them understand what they did wrong. “I don’t like the way you took the toy from her”, rather than “you are naughty”.
  5. Set the rules and give alternative behavior to your “don’ts”. “We don’t hit. We use our words”.
  6. Set the consequences for breaking your rules implement and enforce them. “You hit your friend, so we are leaving now”.
  7. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and do not dismiss the fact that they are legitimate. It is the way they deal with their feelings that needs to be addressed and not the feelings per say. “I understand that you are angry, but we do not scream but use our soft voice”.
  8. Compliment the good behavior. Don’t assume that it is what the child should be doing. “I like the way you are sharing”.
  9. Give your child choices. Instead of fighting over what to wear; get out 2 outfits and let him or her choose.
  10. Tell your child what “he can” do, instead of “what he can’t”. Instead of: “don’t slide down head first”, say: “we slide down legs first”.
  11. Do not resort to bribing your children if they promise to behave. Even if it is something insignificant; you are still enforcing the “what do I get in return?” concept.
  12. Pick your battles.

And last but not least

         13. be consistent 

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