Preschoolers Want to Have Fun – But Need Boundaries
preschoolbehaviorDo you ever get the feeling that your preschooler is ruling the roost – bossing you around and throwing tantrums when things don’t go his or her way?
Been there! Here’s what it looked like in my house: My son would wake up and immediately demand to watch Blippi on our Smart TV. If I told him no, he’d throw himself on the floor and scream so loudly I was certain our neighbors would call the police. Breakfast was our next battle. And so on.
Preschoolers are famous for testing limits, and despite our best efforts and intentions, it’s easy for moms to fall into the trap of giving into our children’s demands. We want to see them happy and we want to keep the peace. However, giving too much and being too lenient can be detrimental to both parent and child.
The anxious parent
Writing for Empowering Parents, licensed mental health counselor Debbie Pincus noted that both children and parents cross boundaries. While preschoolers tend to do so in obvious ways such as ordering mom to give up her seat on the couch or insisting on ice cream for lunch, with parents it’s more subtle.
“As parents we often cross boundaries ourselves in our attempts to fix things for them,” wrote Pincus.
Moreover, boundaries blur when parents overfunction for kids and do things for them they should be doing for themselves.
“It’s important we let our children fight their own battles.”
At the crux of the issue is parental anxiety, as explained by Pincus. When mom worries that her child won’t be successful in school or that he won’t be able to control his behavior at a restaurant, she might insert herself into the situation and take control rather than letting him navigate the waters himself. In doing so, mom lessens her anxiety in the moment to the detriment of her son, who in turn misses out on an opportunity to work through the obstacle himself.
While allowing our children to struggle a bit goes against our natural instinct to protect our babies at all costs, it’s important we let kids fight their own battles. In doing so, they learn valuable life lessons that help them become autonomous, resilient, independent adults, according to The Guardian.
Setting healthy boundaries for kids
First and foremost, stop helping too much and giving too much. Psychology Today encourages parents to evaluate their helping and giving: Is it helpful or unhelpful? Does it interfere with your preschooler’s competency?
When we step in and “help” our children solve a puzzle that they could have figured out themselves, we’re intruding on their ability to build aptitude and confidence.
Likewise, when we succumb to our children’s tantrums and give them what they ask for, we’re actually creating an environment that breeds insecurity. Although your three-year-old acts like he wants to be in charge, actually being in charge and having that power can be scary to children, according to Parenting.com. Kids feel safe and assured when an adult is in charge and rules are in place and adhered to.
Through it all, it’s important that you remain as supportive as possible. Speak to your child in a manner that lets him know you’re on his side. For example, let’s say your son is acting up at a family member’s house and throwing toys. You decide he needs to leave. You could frame it as a punishment: “You threw toys, now you have to go home,” which will create distance between the two of you. Or you could frame it in a way that’s more gentle: “You threw toys and could have hurt someone. I know you can control yourself, so let’s come back tomorrow and try again.”
We must always remember that our No. 1 job as mothers is preparing our children for life. By creating and respecting healthy parent/child boundaries and setting limits for preschoolers, moms are giving their babies a running start at success!