LandonMark and I have the joy of having 2 or our 3 grandkids all this week while Mom and Dad take their church youth group to a week-long youth conference.

I’m knee-deep in diaper, sippy cups, and cutting up food at mealtime.  Because of the age range of my five kids, we had a preschooler in our home for 17 straight years.  I can tell you that even though it’s not a part of my everyday now, Mark and I have slipped right back into the rhythms and routines of the preschool years.

This week I’ll be sharing strategies for parenting in the early years.  Today’s strategy is: BE IN CHARGE.

Have you ever played pinball?  You shoot the ball into the pinball machine and it is bounced around from boundary to boundary.  Parenting preschoolers is very similar. Our little ones are looking for their boundaries.

The early years is when we establish a respect for authority that will serve our child well throughout their lifetime.

Often it feels like they are pushing the boundaries, but really they are just looking for them.  We all long for structure and consistency in our lives–preschoolers are no different. That’s why it’s important for parents of preschoolers to BE THE PARENT.

What does this look like from a practical perspective?

1) Be the leader. If you don’t lead, your child will lead and you and I both know that a four-year-old is not equipped for leading adults effectively.  They can lead you and they will try to lead you, but you have to resist the urge to give in to their influencing actions.

2) Don’t be manipulated. They will whine, throw a temper tantrum, beg, and cry to get their way.  Don’t take the bait! They need the adults in their life to be a strong boundary and to set and keep direction.

3) Untangle emotions.  Sometimes their tempers come to the surface out of frustration, being tired, or even being sad.  Redirecting, snuggling, and even separating a child from others for a few minutes will help untangle the emotions that are inside of them.

4) Make small tweaks. Yesterday I took Rilyn to the store with me. She was the average four-year-old who wanted everything she saw.  I was having to say “no” every five seconds.  Then I remembered how I resolved this when my kids were little.  I told Rilyn that she couldn’t ask me for anything at the store but she could show me the things she’d love to have for Christmas.  No more need to say no and instead I could connect and engage with her interests.  It was a small tweak that made a huge difference.

Remember, you start raising a teenager when they are a toddler.  Being in charge during the early years will help set the stage for still being in charge during the teen years, where the concept of respecting authority really comes into play.

What about you?  What strategies would you add for being in charge and staying in charge in the early years? 

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