Discipline: Helping your preschooler learn to behave

I am finding it very difficult to discipline my four-year-old daughter. I tend to lose my patience. Can you help?


Four year olds can be much like young adolescents. They tend to be rebellious and to talk back when a parent tries to tell them what to do.

It can be much more difficult to discipline unless you've laid a good foundation in the early years. That's really why it's so important to discipline your daughter effectively now.

The most important thing I can tell you is not to try to enforce too many rules at this time. Otherwise, your house will be a constant war zone. Sit down and make a list of the four or five areas that are most important to you and your partner. Do you care a lot about having a consistent bedtime and not so much about whether or not there is a bath every night? Are table manners extremely important to you or is putting away toys a priority?

Consistency is the name of the game. If you insist that the four or five rules be followed each day, your child will learn discipline, even though it may not seem that way at the time. Remember that if a four year old complies with your rule, but talks back, that is still compliance. It's okay if she has the last word, as long as she's following the rule.

What do you do if she doesn't follow the rules? Time outs still work for some four year olds. A more effective method may be the removal of a privilege. No TV after supper is an example of this kind of discipline. When it's time for the punishment, make sure you remind your child of the reason for it. Preferably, the privilege taken away should be on the same day as the infraction. This makes it easier for the child to make the connection.

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