It’s no big secret that preschoolers are easily frustrated. In fact, their need for mastery and perfection can result in many torn papers and smashed towers. Riley is no stranger to re-drawing the same picture three times in a row, while Liam still tends to run when the going gets tough.
Full of big ideas, preschoolers tend to create complicated blueprints in their minds, and become sad or frustrated when the finished product isn’t exactly what they hoped for.
Although their increased verbal skills often lead parents to believe that they no longer require much assistance, they do need our guidance when it comes to learning to be resilient.
Below are some tips to help you build resiliency in your child:
Focus of the Positive: Positive attitudes cause positive attitudes. Preschoolers often become upset when they feel that their peers are surpassing them in various skills. The truth is that each child develops at his own pace, and you can’t rush a skill that isn’t ready to be mastered. But you can instill a can-do spirit in your child. Praise specific efforts toward meeting new goals (“I love the way you are working on writing those letters in between the lines”). When your child asserts a desire to try a new skill, smile and say, “let’s do it!” You might not think your child is ready to ride that trike yet, but he might be ready to try. Focus on the small efforts made toward the larger goal.
Rely on a Mantra: Preschoolers love rhymes, songs, and mantras. Little songs and sayings help them to stay focused and give them some control. That’s why the clean up song that you’re tired of singing actually gets the job done! Develop a family mantra to use when the going gets tough. You might hear my kids muttering, “slow and steady wins the race” when tackling the monkey bars at the park or completing a difficult puzzle. Talk about the importance of remembering that tasks aren’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean that they are impossible.
Model Resilience: You know that moment when you want to pull your hair out because the phone is ringing, the kids are starving, and the lock on the front door is stuck? That would be the time to find your sense of humor and model some coping skills. Frustration happens. For children and adults. Watching their parents keep their calm, and possibly even crack a few jokes, in the face of frustration teaches children that we are all human, but we can find ways to cope (that don’t include tantrums and/or sobbing). Point out the trigger of your frustration, label your feelings in response to the trigger, and talk your way through your problem solving strategy.
Keep Things Age Appropriate: Preschoolers tend to be very verbal and they like to assert their newfound independence and capability. Allowing the growth of this independence is crucial. Giving them tasks and toys beyond what it is developmentally appropriate will lead to frustration and giving up. Choose puzzles, toys, and books in their age range (they are clearly marked for a reason). Ask them to perform tasks around the house that they can complete with ease. Carrying heavy grocery bags into the house will be difficult, but unpacking the groceries into the pantry is an excellent task for a preschooler. And remember to praise their efforts…no matter how they choose to “organize”!
Provide Guidance, Not a Rescue: I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to sit back and watch while my kids struggle. So I don’t. But I don’t rescue them either. I work with them. Stay calm and provide guidance when your preschooler becomes frustrated with a task. Ask something like, “how do you think we can make this tower stand?” and wait for their ideas before you share yours. Sometimes a short break from the task can help to restore some calm before making another attempt. Relying on empathy and sharing your own struggles when you were small will help your child feel less alone.
The best time to teach a new skill or attempt a new milestone is when your child is calm, well rested, and has a nice, full tummy. But don’t rush them…they need to meet those milestones when they are ready.
How do you build resilience in your children?