How to Help Your Preschooler When They Have a Behavior Problem

by | Sep 3, 2020 | Challenging Behavior, Tools for Mothers, Uncategorized

When your child is having a behavior problem

  • Frequent tantrums
  • Hitting or biting
  • Fighting with siblings
  • Resisting routines like bedtime

it seems easy enough to identify the problem:

They’re not doing something they should be doing!

  • OR –

They’re doing something they shouldn’t be!

The trouble with this kind of thinking about the problem, though, is that it turns any solution to the problem into your child’s responsibility (they need to change).

Unfortunately, you have no power to change anyone else.  So long as you’re trying to change your child’s behavior you’re doomed to fail.  You know the saying,

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him wash”

(or perhaps you heard it said a little differently)

There’s no way to make a toddler eat his food (or not a pretty way, anyway).

There’s no way to make a preschooler use the toilet (speaking from years of experience here).

When your child is having a problem, you may have been trying some of these strategies, with greater or lesser results:

  • Yelling
  • Taking away toys and privileges
  • Scolding (which is often just another name for shaming)
  • Ignoring
  • Bribing

But in my experience with hundreds of children and families, none of these strategies results in the outcome you’re probably hoping for:

  1. Your child listens to you
  2. They rethink their behavior
  3. They use a better, more successful skill
  4. Everyone is happy

Those strategies don’t work because

  • when you try to make a behavior STOP you’re not teaching an alternative, better behavior to replace it
  • when you want your child to DO something you ask, you’re not looking at how you can guide or teach them how to do it


When you look at a problem with the thought in mind:

“What can I do to help my child learn what to do?”

you get ALL the power back.  You’re no longer the victim to your child’s negative behavior, you’re the SOLUTION.

In fact, you’re the leader and guide to your child.

You know the ropes.

Think about it.  When you’re on a hike along an unfamiliar trail with a trusty guide to show you the way, does your guide

  • push you
  • pull you
  • scold you for not knowing the way
  • yell at you for not being able to keep up

Probably not.

Your guide might

  • encourage you
  • show you how to avoid the rough places
  • explain why you’re going the way they’ve chosen

That’s what you can do for your child, if you look at problems that crop up as skills they haven’t yet mastered.

As a mom, you have lots of opportunities to practice guiding and teaching strategies, since your children are still learning so many skills.

Yes, it can be a lot of work. 

But being a teacher and guide is much more effective (and fun) than being the mean mom who is always yelling, or the sad mom who is always disappointed, or the manipulative mom who is always wheedling, or…… you get the picture.

Just for today, look at problems that come up for you and your children as problems you can help them solve, and as skills they haven’t (yet!) learned, but that you can teach them.

See if that changes the way you feel about these problems.

If you feel differently, does it help you be more willing to try teaching new skills?


Let me know in the comments!


Stay Safe, Be Well,




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