Instead of playing the frustration game of "No-no, that can hurt you!" and "Stop doing that to your sister!" with your preschooler, try a less frustrating tactic. Introduce some zany limit-setting activities to give you and your kid some peace of mind. Your little one needs limits -- according to renowned pediatrician Dr. William Sears, "Boundaries provide security for the child." Boundaries are essential for your kiddo's safety and your sanity. So try some engaging strategies to set limits using the tools and toys at hand.
Give small, frequent choices to your child as a way of setting and enforcing disciplinary standards. Let your little one decide between two options for breakfast and allow her to choose what to wear -- within reason... a snow white dress up gown and rubber boots don't work for every occasion! -- and which little chore such as picking up toys or helping fold towels to do first. This allows her to exert her independence within the limits of your boundaries. Listen to her opinion and encourage her to think for herself to improve her confidence.
2. Role Play
Play dolls, puppets or stuffed animals with your child in order to model positive behavior and talk about making safe choices. For example, if two teddy bears have an argument, talk about what they should and should not do. Talk about how they would feel and what they should do if someone hurts their feelings. Pretend play is an effective and engaging way to showcase constructive behavior choices and teach empathy. By "taking care of" her toys, feeding and cuddling them, as well as guiding them to make healthy and kind decisions in role play, your child learns what the limitations are.
3. Make a Chart
Preschoolers love attention and smiling for the camera. Take photos of your child doing the right things. Your preschooler can ham it up while putting trash in the garbage can, putting a dish in the sink, holding Daddy's hand while crossing the street, brushing her teeth, even putting on her bike helmet. Print the pictures and glue them on a bright piece of poster board in her favorite color. Let her dictate simple captions for each like "Emma pets the cat carefully." Hang the poster of good choices in her room, read it often for reinforcement and refer to it when there's an infraction because she can see a visual representation of herself doing the right thing.
4. Silly Stories
Build on your kid's love of silliness and laughter by telling funny stories in the car to highlight boundaries. Pick the name of a friend or favorite character and give your child a funny set up such as, "Cinderella was playing with her beach ball in the yard when it rolled into the street. Should she run into the road, hop on one foot, slap her sister in the head or ask her mom to go get it?" Your child is bound to say that Cinderella would get run over by a car if she ran after the ball. Be sure to make the choices as outlandish and crazy as possible to keep the giggles coming, and you'll squeeze in some explanations of how boundaries protect her, too.
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