You might think it is impossible for a preschooler to learn respect. But an almost three year old has the verbal skills to learn to show respect. He won’t get it right a lot of the time, but with practice and consistent teaching, he’ll become a respectful child.
Respect is not the same as fear. Respect is more than just being courteous, it is paying attention to and being kind to others.
Like all behaviors you want you child to learn, respect is taught by demonstration. One of the ways we show respect is to listen to others when they speak. You teach this kind of respect by listening to your child. Get down on his level, look him in the eye, and let him know you are interested in what he has to say. When he knows you listen to him, he’ll listen to you just as carefully.
Teach him polite responses. You have probably already been teaching him to say “please” and “thank you.” Use polite responses yourself and he’ll catch your habit. More than just the words, teach him that you don’t like it when he demands things of you. Tell him, “I like to help you more when you ask me in a nice tone of voice.” “Thank you” said with a snarl is not a thankful attitude. Begin teaching attitude responses as well as verbal responses.
You can begin to teach him that he can disagree without being disagreeable. He will have his own opinion about many things, but there is a right and wrong way to express those opinions. When he says, “I won’t go to the store! Take me to the park!” You can say, “I might consider going to the park, if you ask me in a respectful way.” You may have to coach him to ask, “Can we go to the park after we go to the store?” If he manages something like this, you should let him know he has done well and take him to the park for a little while after shopping.
Often expressing his opinion is exercising his independence, not being disrespectful. When it really doesn’t matter, try to let it pass without comment. Choosing the clothes he wears may be the way he practices being independent. It usually doesn’t matter if his clothes match or are appropriate to the occasion. He’ll soon enough discover for himself that some outfits really are better than others. To avoid a power struggle that ends in disrespect, you may say, “I’ll just bring this along in case you change your mind.” This allows him a gracious way out of a wrong opinion. You are showing him respect and he will learn to respect your opinions too.
Respect is taught by setting limits and being firm in discipline. Setting limits lets your child know there are boundaries to what he can do and say. But limits without enforcement (discipline) are really no limits at all. If he refuses to abide by the rules, you must come up with a simple, easily enforced consequence. Then always quickly and without anger make him pay the consequence. He will learn to honor the limits set by adults.
Praise respectful behavior. When your son spontaneously displays respect, praise him. Be sure to be specific about what he did right. Don’t just say, “good boy” or “good job.” Say, “You were so polite when you said ‘please’ to Auntie for a drink of water.” You might even add, “That made Auntie happy and me so proud of you.”
Bad Word and Nasty Habits
Nasty habits and bad words often start by accident. They pick up words and habits from friends and playmates, from TV, and even from you in unguarded moments. Whining, shrieking, sticking out his tongue, hitting, biting, and bad words may get an amazingly strong, immediate reaction from you the first time he uses it. He thinks, “Wow! That was cool! I’ve got to try that again!”
The quickest way to make this kind of language or behavior disappear is to ignore it. The more fuss you make over it, the more you show him how powerful certain words are. He will want to use them more and more. A set habit is far harder to eradicate.
We haven’t mentioned measurements of language skills for many months. This is a good time to evaluate his progress. Language measurements are more than just the number of words your child speaks.
Here are some mile markers for this age:
- Listens to a story with pictures and stays engaged as you discuss them
- Enjoys looking at pictures books, turning pages, and naming small details of what he sees
- Sings songs and knows a few nursery rhymes
- Plays pretend games and chatters sensibly to himself as he plays alone
- Can answer questions with “yes” or “no” and questions like, “What do you eat with?” or “Are you a girl or a boy?”
- Can follow a simple request
- Refers to himself using “I” and knows his first and last name
- Knows more 500 words
- Names at least one color and repeats two or more numbers correctly
- Asks questions that begin with “what,” “why,” “where.”
- Learns new words quickly and copies words parents speak
- Names common foods and objects he has regular contact with
- Identifies body parts
- Understands size difference
- Uses three to four word sentences
If you don’t think your son meets these goals or has suddenly stopped progressing or regressed, tell your doctor. An audiology screening (hearing test) and evaluation by a speech-language pathologist should be scheduled. He may also schedule an evaluation by a psychologist to rule out autism.
Either hearing problems or autism should be treated as soon as possible. Don’t delay! The ability of your child to learn will be greatly increased by early intervention.
Preparing for Preschool
This is the continuation of our series of steps to prepare your child for preschool.
Read to your child every day! Set aside at least 15 minutes a day for reading time. This will make reading time a familiar ritual when he starts preschool.
Since preschoolers can’t read independently, they need to learn to listen. Reading aloud to him helps him develop listening skills. Stories with rhythm are particular favorites. When he can remember the repeating phrases, ask him to “read” with you.
One of the skills he will be learning in preschool is to predict the outcome of a story. You can help him prepare by stopping midway through a story and ask him about what he thinks will happen next, or how he thinks the story will end.
Get Outside and Play
Your son needs lots of fresh air and opportunity to play freely. He needs it as much as he needs sleep and good food. Find some time each day for him to play outdoors. Encourage him to run around and work his muscles in your own yard, a park, or a playground. Being outdoors provides sensory stimulation that he cannot have indoors like: hearing birds, feeling the dirt, letting the sun shine on his face. Give yourself a few minutes of fresh air and sunshine too. It will calm your nerves and refresh you for the rest of your day.
He should practice skills like balancing, catching a ball, coordination, and controlling his speed. Play fun games with him like Follow the Leader and Simon Says. Take a ball and play Catch. Use gym equipment that is provided in parks and playgrounds.
If there are other children at the play area, he will also be learning some social skills like taking turns and working together to make the seesaw go up and down.
He appreciates many things that he can’t see. He can tell what is happening, even if he cannot fully understand why. Try some of the following experiments with him:
- Place a dry sponge in a saucer of water. Ask him where the water went. If he can’t tell you, let him play with the sponge and water for a while. Then he should be able to tell you where the water went.
- Predicting weight. Show him some objects of different weights. Ask if he can lift the object. When an item is just a little too heavy, he’ll guess that he can. Let his muscles tell him, he didn’t guess correctly.
- Blowing. Ask him, “Can you blow this paper off the table?” Then, “Can you blow this block off the table?”
There have been lots of studies of how mothering styles and different events in a child’s life influence our child’s development. Some of us are really laid-back and relaxed in our parenting style. Some are more structured and demanding of ourselves and our children. Some children have faced really difficult, upsetting events in their short lives. These studies have some interesting results.
We’ll take a few of the different approaches and see the outcomes.
If a baby was bottle or breast fed or at what age they began to eat solid foods had little or no effect on eating problems later in life. What did seem to lead to feeding problems later were strict potty training methods, resisting the child’s desire for affection, and showing little warmth and gentleness toward the child.
Children who had high expectations put on them for early potty training more often became bed wetters later on. But even if high expectations were placed on the child very early, if the mom was warm and gentle in the process, they less often became bed wetters.
Far more important than a single traumatic event or a series of upsetting events like strict potty training, is the overall attitude and approach that parents take to their children over many months or years. How well parents think of themselves and each other and how satisfied they are with their parenting role plays a very significant part in determining what their children will be like.
So, even when you have a really bad day with your child, don’t feel you have scarred him for life. We all have good days and bad days, days when we feel good about being a mom and days when we hate it. Even if you cannot think of one good thing about some day, be content that you got through it. Sometimes that counts as a successful day. Tomorrow can be much better.
Just do not hover over your child, constantly trying to protect him. Don’t constantly be asking yourself, “Is he doing all right?” Don’t pressure your child to perform at ever higher levels. Don’t make him feel that you only love him when he performs well. These attitudes really do affect your child.
Be a good mom! Enjoy your son, laugh with him, and hold him close. Make sure he knows that you love him because he belongs to you! These attitudes will cover a lot of mistakes and tough days.
Heavenly Father, please forgive me when I lose my temper or challenge my child too much. Give me a heart that overflows with love and gentleness toward my little one. Give me the wisdom to know how to relax and enjoy being a mom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.