Many people think of a screaming toddler in the grocery store when they think of temper tantrums. But preschoolers can lose it too. Four-year-olds like to be in control of their world. They like mastering new skills and meeting new challenges. When things don’t go according to their plan, they can get frustrated and have a meltdown.
A good strategy is to watch for building frustration and offer to help — just a little bit. If you take over the task, he won’t feel like he met the challenge himself. And if he does break down into a tantrum, acknowledge his feelings: “I can see that you’re mad because you’re trying so hard to do that.”
While you can’t head off every tantrum, the trick is to find out what’s causing the outburst so you can try to avoid that particular trigger the next time. Here’s how to handle some of the more common tantrum traps with your sanity intact.
Time for lessons?
We’ve all been there: you signed your four-year-old up for an activity, only to have him lose interest after three sessions. To avoid throwing money away, keep these points in mind before you sign your child up next time:
- Recognize whose passion this is. Is it truly his? Or is it something you want for him?
- See if there are other (ie: free) ways to nurture an interest without classes. Will hockey in the driveway fit the bill?
- Match your child to a class that suits his temperament and goals. Is a big class right for him, or would a private class work better?
As a preschooler, your child is starting to create his own identity — including his sense of style. While you might think the red shirt and purple pants aren’t the best match, just go with it. It’s part of how he presents himself to the world and he’ll take great pride in making the decision himself!
Thinking of friends
The ability to empathize — to understand how someone else is feeling — is a learned skill, and chances are, you’re seeing the beginnings of real empathy in your preschooler. It takes time and practice for kids to learn how to put themselves in another person’s place. But there are things parents can do to help along the way.
Inevitably, there will be times when he seems selfish and insensitive toward others. But there will also be times when he will surprise you with the depth of feeling for someone else. When he comforts a friend who is hurt, or pats your back when he senses you’re tired, you can rest assured that he’s well on his way to becoming an emotionally healthy person.
Indoor fun & games
Preschoolers are attracted by all the cool stuff that comes with a board game. There are dice and cards with wonderful illustrations, interesting place markers, and of course the board itself.
Understanding the rules may be too much for a four-year-old, and that’s OK. Playing leapfrog with the checkers pieces or just stacking them up in piles together is still time well spent. And there are some age-appropriate games that emphasize cooperation rather than winning and losing — a concept most preschoolers will have difficulty with.