DIY Discipline

How do preschool teachers get kids to behave? They let the children work out conflicts themselves.

Flying Solo

Trouble is brewing in the block area at the nursery school where I teach. Rory, 5, is building a castle right where Emily, 4, is playing. Emily crashes her toy pony into Rory's masterpiece. "You wrecked my castle," Rory yells. "But that's where the pony is going," Emily says. Rory grabs the pony. Emily yanks it back. Now what?

As a parent, you may think the solution is to take the pony away from Emily or to tell Rory she should build her castle in a quieter spot. But as a preschool teacher for more than six years, I've learned that it's far more effective to teach children how to solve their own problems rather than telling them exactly what to do.

"When parents encourage kids to come up with their own solutions, children are much more likely to be satisfied with the results," says Myrna Shure, PhD, author of Thinking Parent, Thinking Child. "And they're also more likely to be willing to carry out their ideas without a fuss." Here are some strategies that work for me in the classroom.

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