Have you ever wondered how to set rules for your preschooler? If you set rules, will your child understand them or follow them? How many should you have for a preschooler? Is it worth it to even try?
Rules are essential for all children. They help kids to flourish and grow. A rule is a specific, clear statement about behaviors you expect from your child. They work best when there’s consistency, predictability and follow-through.
Rules help your child to:
- Know your expectations for behavior.
- Feel a sense of order.
- Learn how to socialize.
- Feel competent.
- Stay safe.
- Feel reassured about who’s in charge.
- Gain confidence.
Setting realistic rules for your preschooler
It’s important to think about your child’s development when setting rules. The rules should support your child’s natural drive to explore, learn and practice new skills. Use only a few rules at a time. Too many can be confusing for your preschooler.
Make rules clear and simple:
- Clean up toys (sometimes needing help from you).
- No hurting or hitting others.
- No climbing or jumping on furniture.
- Eat food before leaving the table.
- Hold hands to stay safe.
Kids need frequent reminders about the rules. A rule chart can be helpful. Place the chart where everyone can see it, like the refrigerator door. Use pictures or visual cues since your child can’t read yet.
Stick to your rules
Make sure everyone follows the rules. Model the behavior you want to see. Be sure to give lots of praise when you see your child following the rules and making good choices. Be specific about what your child has done to deserve the praise, and give it as soon as you notice the good behavior.
If a rule is broken, consequences should immediately follow. The consequences should be clear to you and to your child. If your child is throwing a toy, say: “This toy will have to take a break. You can have it back after you calm down.” If your child has a tantrum in the store, you may need to leave. Try sitting in the car or walking outside of the store for a few minutes. Allow your child time to calm down. Then calmly state your expectations for behavior in the store and try again. Your child will begin to learn your expectations.
Your child needs practice to learn how to follow rules. Patience and time are the key to setting rules for your preschooler.
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