Anyone who’s ever spent time with a preschooler knows how stubborn kids age can be at that age. But what can parents do about it? Linda Morgan, editor of ParentMap and author of the book, Beyond Smart, has some helpful ideas.
Why are preschoolers so stubborn?
This quality is very age-appropriate. They have much stimulation coming at them from all directions. They are learning what’s socially acceptable. They aren’t really developmentally old enough to control their responses.
And they automatically resist being forced or coerced. They are trying to figure out who they are and are developing a sense of self.
Some of this is also due to inborn temperament.
Should we accept this and hope it passes?
We should try to understand it. But we should also stay in control. We should help our kids deal with frustrations. Impose clear rules and don’t argue with them over everything or over explain things. You won’t win that argument.
Distract your child. For example, if your child refuses to go to bed, ask, do you want to wear the princess pajamas or the Dora pajamas? Do you want to read Good Night Moon or Cat in the Hat? They’ll focus on this instead of whether they want to go to bed.
Are there any upsides to this behavior?
Very stubborn kids often have very good focus. These might be the kids to stick to a task – a puzzle, a project, doing a math problem. They are determined. They hang in there. It can be an indication of a certain kind of temperament that may serve them well in the future.
What’s the best way to deal with a very stubborn preschooler?
- Be positive: Enough negativity is coming from your child. Be encouraging and supportive, not threatening. Instead of saying “If you don’t put your toys away, you’re not going to the zoo. Say, “As soon as you put the toys away, we get to go to the zoo.”
- Offer options: This gives your child a sense of power and control. And that’s what he’s looking for. Would you like to take a bath or a shower? Would you like to look at a book or should we sing a song?
- Just say no: Sometimes that’s the right way to go. They are learning to deal with their frustrations and if you constantly fix everything for them, how will they learn to cope? Learning to deal with frustration is a life lesson.
- Keep your cool: That can be the hardest part, especially when saying no results in a meltdown. But remember you are setting the example. And when things get especially tough, remember that this, too, will pass.