If your preschooler likes to argue, don’t worry . . . it’s not you . . . it’s just the way his brain develops. A preschooler’s brain is beginning to understand cause and effect, so she wants to understand the causes – which is why he asks, “Why?” and argues about everything.
Preschoolers want to argue about everything. Stop talking. Talking is the fuel for the power struggle. Be firm but kind (better too firm than too kind, but seek the balance.) If he is doing something he already knows is wrong, use one word in a sing-song tone to remind him of the rule, “Yell-ing?” Take a moment to understand what he needs. Why is this so important to him? This may be a Genuine Encounter Moment (a GEM) where you realize something new. Don’t assume you are right and teach him that what’s important to him is not important to you (and therefore he’s not important.) You also may need to negotiate or at least offer him age-appropriate choices, depending on the situation.
Another system that works well at this age is giving stickers for good behavior because they are concrete objects that your child can look at or hold in his hand. They are positive reinforcement. As he gets older, you may switch to a less physical version by giving him five points at the beginning of the week and taking away one point for every time he misbehaves. If he makes it a whole week without losing all five points, he gets a positive, healthy reward. Post the points on the refrigerator so he can see how many he has left, and then give him an opportunity to stop by saying something like, “If you don’t ______ you’re going to lose a point.”
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