Ask your child to clean her room and then step out for a few minutes. Chances are, you'll return to find a messy room and a happily playing child. Preschoolers are at an age where they can begin to understand traits of reliability such as honesty, responsibility, dependability and trustworthiness, but this doesn't mean your child won't need plenty of help practicing reliable behaviors. Reinforce reliability in day-to-day activities with your child.
1. Honesty is Best
How can you rely on your little one to tell you the truth? Sometimes you can't. Developmentally, lying is a phase children go through as they seek independence. Don't give them an opportunity to lie by asking "did you just break the window?", instead say "I see you've broken the window with your ball. Let's clean it up." Practice daily to teach your preschooler to be reliable in situations where honesty is involved. Start each day off with a sticker (you should have one, too) and when a lie is told, the sticker is lost. Read books about truth telling such as "Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big" by Berkeley Breathed then make a game out of identifying truth and lies. Tell your child a truth like "Mommy has two kids" then ask "truth or lie?" then state a lie "Mommy has seven kids." Ask your child "did I tell the truth?". Play this game back and forth, asking your child to identify the lies.
2. Who's Responsible?
Your preschooler can become the second set of hands you've always wished you had. Assign some manageable chores for your toddler to do on a daily or weekly basis, to teach your preschooler to be reliable and responsible. Preschoolers are able to make their bed, set the table and complete self-care activities such as teeth brushing and getting dressed. Make a chore chart together, allow your child to add stickers to the chart each time she has completed a chore, and read books about responsibility such as "Molly the Great's Messy Bed: A Book About Responsibility" by Shelley Marshall, to reinforce this idea.
3. Being a Friend
Part of being reliable is being there for your family and friends. Help your child understand that being able to rely on someone means you'll be there for them when you're having fun or when things aren't so fun. Take turns choosing a toy to play with. When your preschooler doesn't want to play with what you chose, remind her "doing what someone else wants is part of being a good friend and a reliable person." Make a book together of activities your child can do for others that show she is a reliable friend such as helping a neighbor in her garden or visiting a sick friend from school. Your child can draw the pictures and you can write the words.
4. Follow Rules
Feeling like a broken record when you have to ask your preschooler to stop playing ball in the house for the fifth time? Following rules may be hard for your child and he may need constant reminders of your expectations. Make it fun to follow rules. Play a game similar to "Simon Says" and have your child practice doing what you ask him to do. You can be silly: "Mommy says to spin around three times" and serious "Mommy says to pick up your clothes and place them in the hamper." Read books together about following rules. Some preschool level books on this topic include: "Know and Follow the Rules" by Cheri J. Meiners and "The Rules" by Marty Kelley.
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