Nip those disrespectful faces in the bud before they become routine expressions.

How to Deal With a Disrespectful Preschooler

by Christina Schnell

You cut his crusts and do his laundry, which makes a sassy reply all the more infuriating. Children aren't born with an understanding of authority and respect. At some point, almost every preschooler will act disrespectfully. However, this doesn't mean you should allow him, or any child, to treat you poorly.

1. Model Respectful Behavior

Children learn through imitation, so if you or your partner frequently mouth off to each other or her siblings, she'll likely follow along. Require that everyone in the family, including older siblings and adults, use respectful language when disagreeing and making requests. That means eliminating name-calling and comments like, "No! Don't do it that way!" or "I asked you to do that yesterday!" Even if these remarks aren't directed at your preschooler, she'll pick up on the demanding, disrespectful tone and try it out herself.

2. Correct Disrespect Immediately

You're late or it's almost bedtime, or you're on your way out the door, when your preschooler throws his shoe at you. Thankfully, you ducked, but that doesn't mean you can let this slide. Correcting your preschooler's disrespectful behavior is rarely convenient, but always necessary. Immediately after the shoe misses your right temple, kneel down to your preschooler's level and firmly state, "I understand you're upset, but you may not throw things, ever." If your child screams or lunges at you, now is the time for a time-out. Once he's calm, discuss why throwing shoes isn't acceptable. Don't just lecture, also ask questions like, "Do I throw shoes at you when I'm angry?" "How would it make you feel if someone threw things at you?" and "What could you do differently next time?"

3. Rewind and Replay

After serving your preschooler a plate of vertically sliced, lukewarm, perfectly partitioned food, she haughtily replies, "Hey! I wanted applesauce, not ketchup!" Resist the urge to snatch her plate and tell her the only dinner she'll be having is the air on his pillow. Instead, calmly return her plate to the counter and tell her, "I'll listen when you ask me in a kinder way." When she comes up with an acceptable alternative response, thank her for doing so and tell her you're going to try that scene again. Replace the food on the table and wait for her to say, "Excuse me, may I please have applesauce instead of ketchup?" Kids learn through repetition, so rewinding and replaying the entire scene correctly reinforces a respectful solution for future incidents.

4. Praise Good Decisions

Preschoolers love praise. Compliment your preschooler or other people in the family when they behave respectfully toward each other. For example, when an older sibling or your preschooler politely requests your help say, "Yes! Thank you for asking me so nicely; I would love to help you." This might seem syrupy sweet to you or your older kids, but exaggerating the desired behavior makes it easier for your preschooler to absorb and repeat.

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