How to Negate the Negative Effects of Preschool – Part 4

In the excitement of buying my cloth diapers and discovering the book Nurture Shock, I apologise for getting off course on this topic.  Perhaps I have also relaxed a little on my drive to negate the negative effects of preschool after Gavin’s remarkable adaptation back to school.  His increased confidence and friendliness towards the teachers and the other students has not only blown me away but the teachers as well.

These days, when I pick him up from school, he will light up when he sees me but he will always run back to make sure he has said, “Goodbye,” to all his friends and teachers.  I cannot help but be filled with pride with how much he has developed over the past couple of months.  Most of all, I am reassured by the terrific relationship he has with his teacher and the blossoming friendships he has with the other children at school.

Gavin has clearly been working hard to adapt to school and it is my job to continue his development at home.  So…  continuing on from the previous post on this topic, it is important to:

5. Encourage a problem solving attitude

“Kids with the strongest social skills treat rebuffs as temporary setbacks that can be improved. You can encourage this attitude by suggesting socially “generous” reasons for social rejection (like “Maybe he’s just shy,” or “maybe he just wants to play by himself for a while.”). In addition, help him brainstorm solutions, and encourage him to predict how different social tactics might work. Such thought experiments help kids consider what other kids are feeling and strengthen preschool social skills (Zahn-Waxler et al 1979).

These “what if” scenarios also allow your child to explore ways he can be adapt and “fit in.” Kids with strong preschool social skills are responsive to the play of others, and they know how to mesh their behavior with the behavior of potential playmates (Mize 1995). For instance, if Jane and Emily are playing firefighter and they won’t let Lucy join in because “there isn’t enough room in the fire engine,” Lucy might suggest playing a different role in the game. (“Help! My house is on fire and I’m stuck on the roof!”)”

So far I haven’t really figured out how to encourage this one in Gavin.  There are times when he displays a bit of a negative attitude towards new people and I’m not really sure how to deal with it.  Do I continue to insist he be polite and say “hello” or allow him to warm up on his own and move at his own pace?

There are times when he replies, “I don’t want to say ‘hello’ because I’m shy.”  What do you say to a toddler who says that?  Did we put the words into his mouth by offering that excuse to friends through an effort to cover our mutual embarrassment when Gavin won’t acknowledge them?

I haven’t really figured this one out and I’m open to any suggestions from other parents out there.

6. Be calm and supportive when your child is upset

I think we’ve generally been pretty good with this where Gavin is concerned.  I also have witnessed him hovering around other children who are upset, although he doesn’t quite know how to respond.  Perhaps in time, he will learn what to do.

Although he recognises distress in others, he isn’t necessary empathetic about how his negative behaviour to others might make them feel.  For instance, when he is in one of those “moods” and refuses to greet my FIL when he comes home from work.  I keep trying to tell him that it hurts Ah Kong’s feelings but it doesn’t seem to have any permanent effect on his behaviour.

Is this just a toddler phase that he will outgrow?  Or must I continue to play the broken record in the hope that he will eventually respond in the appropriate manner?

7. Don’t dismiss or play down your child’s negative emotions

“When a child launches into a seemingly irrational crying jag, it’s natural to want to shut him up. But simply telling a child to be quiet doesn’t help him learn. By taking the time to talk about his feelings, you help your child become more reflective, self-controlled and socially competent (Denham et al 1997). This may be especially important for younger children, who need more emotional coaching and who are more likely to “turn off” if their parents dismiss their feelings.”

It is easy to snap and tell your child to “be quiet” when such things happen.  I know we’ve been guilty of doing in the past, although I have learned to adopt the habit of talking him through it.

I think that one of the difficulties with this our need, as parents, to feel like we are in control of our children.  When such things happen in public or in front of people we feel most pressured to make an impression with, we tend not to behave in the best interests of our children.  I, for one, tend to feel embarrassed by my child’s negative emotions when they occur in front of my parents or my in laws and I end up feeling like I need to reign in my child’s behaviour.

I guess this is just one of the things we need to learn to deal with when we live in an extended family environment.  At the end of the day, what is important is that we learn to ignore the environment and focus on our children.  Regardless of whether you are being judged or not being judged as being a good or a bad parent, what really matters is the relationship you have with your child.

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Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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