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Disciplining Preschoolers


I have twin girls and an almost 4-year-old boy. I am having discipline problems that are getting worse. I am getting frustrated and need some advice.


Learning to apply effective consequences is one of the most difficult parenting techniques. When your children are young, it is even harder because you might not see the effect the consequence is having right away. All you can see are the temper tantrums and limit-testing.

It is important to discuss what discipline is. Many parents equate discipline with punishments. This is not true. Discipline means structure and instruction. We have to teach our children appropriate behaviors (sometimes repeatedly). Otherwise they learn from other “teachers,” such as TV, their peers and the media.

Once you identify an inappropriate behavior, stop the behavior immediately.  Once the behavior is stopped, issue an immediate consequence (a time-out, removal of toy, etc.). Then discuss and practice a more appropriate behavior.

For example, if a child is throwing a toy, calmly stop the behavior by describing what he was doing. This might sound like, “Right now you are throwing your toys.  Because you chose to throw your toy, you cannot play with this toy the rest of the day.” Then explain to him how he should play with his toys. 

His behaviors show that he needs reminding. So set your expectations of how you want him to play by telling him what he SHOULD do and not what he SHOULDN’T do. Focus on the positive. Then ask him to show you how to correctly play with a different toy. This is his practice. If he plays nicely with it, praise him for following your instructions.

Boys Town does offer a parenting class for parents of toddlers and preschoolers.  If you are interested, let us know and we can see if there is a class being held in your area.

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