New program helps parents navigate preschool-age child behavior without spanking

Most parents understand the frustration of a cranky toddler. At some point, every parent has experienced the “BAD” response: First you’re bewildered, then agitated and finally default to pleading. Even the comforting, patient parent has moments that escalate to bewilderment, embarrassment, anger and eventually defeat.

Health educators with Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness are offering “Connect the Dots,” a program to help parents of children ages 2 to 5 navigate preschool behavioral challenges. The program is designed to address the need for easy techniques to teach young children the basics of social and emotional behavior.

How does ‘Connect the Dots’ improve child behavior?

“Connect the Dots” is structured into four easy-to-remember steps to build your child’s social and emotional skills.

Ensure supportive environments

Kids thrive on routine and structure. A predictable schedule, organized routine and age-appropriate physical environment can have a direct impact on your child’s behavior.

Tips to create a supportive environment:

  • With your child’s help, make a visual daily schedule so they can see what their day will look like and be aware of changes in the routine.
  • Recognize that transitioning between activities is a social and emotional skill. Kids building a tower will be upset if, without warning, they had to stop before they were finished. Create transitions by setting clear expectations with an audio or visual reminder. Praise your child for a successful transition.
  • Be specific about time. Instead of saying, “We’re leaving in a little bit,” say “We will be leaving when the big hand gets on the six.” Try to give a two-minute warning, so the child knows to get ready to leave.
  • Add visual cues any chance you can. Make sure your child helps make the routine and that it is visible at all times. For example, make a visual bedtime routine where your child can see the steps as they are completed. For example: Change into pajamas, drink milk, brush teeth, read book, lights out.
Encourage positive behaviors
Connect the Dots

Register for one of our free “Connect the Dots” sessions.

Setting expectations and seeking cooperation can go more smoothly if parents first establish a positive connection with their child. Fill their emotional bucket each day by showing interest in their ideas, laughing at their jokes and actively listening. These actions can make them feel good and less likely to act out.

Use positive discipline

Positive discipline means parents are modeling and teaching appropriate behavior. Some strategies include:

  • Actively ignoring inappropriate behaviors such as whining, demanding or baby talk. This lets your child know that negative behaviors won’t get them anything, but good behavior will.
  • Allowing your child to choose acceptable choices shares the control. Examples include, “Would you like fruit or yogurt for breakfast?” or “Would you like to wear the green sweater or the gray sweater today?”
Embrace unique strengths

Like adults, children express unique personality traits. Recognizing and using your child’s character strengths in a positive way will help them on their path to self-discovery and understanding what their strengths are. For example, instead of saying, “My child is such a dawdler,” reframe your thinking to “My child is very mindful.”


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