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Allowing Preschoolers to Experience the Consequences of Their Choices

by Joe Lawrence | August 30th, 2016 | Behavior, Preschool
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3-4-year-old-in-a-bouncy-houseAs parents we want to shield our little ones from every possible danger. We see the things coming down the path and know we can help them avoid this danger or consequence. However, I do not think that we should be doing this for them all the time.

Let’s stop to think about how severe the consequences are to most decisions or choices made by a preschooler. If they choose not to share their toys with a kid at the playground, the long-term ripple effect is not going to lead them joining a gang while serving back-to-back life sentences in prison. We as parents are quick to jump in and say “Johnny, now you share that toy with Stacy.”

What would happen if we let it play out naturally? It will most likely yield a consequence more along the lines of the other kid not wanting to share her toy – nothing life-altering here. I understand the view of us wanting to instill manners and basically not have our kids look like they are spoiled. However, as a parent, I am constantly trying to seek out opportunities for my preschooler to grow. I think these social situations are a perfect setting to allow this to happen.

Obviously we need to draw the line when it comes to safety. I would not allow my kid to bully another or even engage in an actual fight. I will admit I have been tempted though. One time my daughter was playing in a jump castle and another kid pushed her down. I wanted to tell her to lay him out or push him back, but she handled things the right way as I was stuck in my own mind trying to figure it out. She sternly told the boy that he was being “mean.” He apologized, and they moved on.

I was proud of her and at the same time ashamed of myself. If I had intervened, the outcome would not have been the same. There were plenty of times when she would tell me about another kid who was doing something at preschool. At first I would get frustrated because daddy was not there to protect her, and then she would tell me how she handled the situation. Most of the time, it was a great decision. I would reinforce how smart her plan was and occasionally role play a different scenario.

Our kids are so much smarter than we give them credit for. We need to sit on our hands sometimes and let them work out these social interactions while the stakes are low. We won’t be there when they go off to elementary, and they will be lost without our guidance. It is much better for us to observe and then to discuss it later.

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