Preschoolers Behaving Badly

Even the sweetest preschooler may act out in a way that drives you crazy. Luckily, you can tone down the troublemaking.
Behaving Badly

Heather Weston

If your child is starting to act more like a prizefighter than a preschooler, take note: Misbehaving is not only common at this age, but expected. "Three- and 4-year-olds learn by testing the limits, so it's extremely likely that you're going to see your child acting out. But this is a completely normal way for kids to react to situations they dislike or don't have control over," says Parents advisor Jenn Berman, Psy.D., author of SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years and mother of 4-year-old twin girls. Don't stress; it doesn't mean you've got to sit back and accept the hitting, fighting, and biting. This is a great age to teach your child that there are better ways to solve problems than by hurling a toy train across the room at you. You can easily tame these common rude moves if you follow our expert tips.


Why they do it: Your child's tall tales aren't malicious. "Kids this age don't understand that saying something that's not true is wrong," says Dr. Berman. Preschoolers generally tell two kinds of lies: self-preservation fibs and fanciful ones. The former, denying coloring on the wall, for example, helps her save her butt. But she brags to friends about the pet penguin she got for her birthday because the difference between fantasy and reality is still blurry at this age - which isn't surprising since most of her day revolves around pretend play.

How to deal: If she's pulling a Pinocchio, point out the lie without sounding judgmental or angry. "Fibs tend to be wishful thinking, so acknowledge that," says Dr. Berman. You might say, "I realize you wanted Daddy to say that you could watch TV before bed, but I know that he didn't, so we're going to have to wait until tomorrow to watch Dora." Eventually she'll learn that making things up isn't going to get her anywhere. Whatever you do, don't punish her for lying. Your imaginative preschooler might actually believe some of her own fibs, so a lesson about the importance of telling the truth will be more effective than a ten-minute time-out at this age.

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