Parenting Series 23 – Helping Your Preschooler Become Resilient 2 (3 to 5 years old)
You can help your preschooler become resilient by building up qualities within herself and enhancing factors in her environment. While Part I describes the qualities within a child that facilitate resilience, this leaflet will introduce the equally important environmental factors. They include parental support, positive parenting and partnership with school.
Enhancing Factors in the Child's Environment
Children need your support when facing difficulties:
- Build a close relationship with your child from his early age by caring for him, talking and playing with him. He will develop trust in you and turn to you for help when in need.
- Offering emotional support to your child at the time of hardship and frustration is more important than anything else. A hug or comforting words will soothe him. For instance, when he cries over the fallen blocks which he spent hours to build, instead of saying, 'What's the point of crying? Boys don't cry', you should acknowledge his feelings by saying, 'Oh no! It was such a beautiful castle. You must be very upset.' Then give him encouragement, 'Let's build a more gorgeous one.'
- To foster independence, always encourage your child to solve the problems by himself. On the other hand, be ready to provide guidance and offer practical help when he is clearly not capable of handling the situation. Your child will find it easier to overcome the difficult period when you are available to provide necessary support.
- Encourage your child to seek help when he cannot cope with the situation. Be a role model and demonstrate to him how to seek help. By doing so, you instil a help-seeking mindset in your child.
Positive parenting uses constructive and non-hurtful ways to promote the development of social behaviour and a positive self-concept in your child. It involves role modeling,encouraging desirable behaviour in your child and helping her to learn rules, limits and consequences. It will help cultivate a sense of responsibility and self-regulation and will promote communication and problem-solving skills in your child. All these abilities facilitate resilience.
Setting a good example
- 'Like father, like son'. By looking up to you as a role model and imitating your good example, your child will be more able to build up desirable behaviour and positive values.
Encouraging positive behaviour that facilitate resilience
- Initially, your child needs frequent praises from you to establish desirable behaviour. Your attention will increase the frequency of the desirable behaviour.
- When her behaviour becomes more stable, you may gradually reduce your praises. However, you still have to give positive attention to her. Recognition and encouragement from time to time maintain the desirable behaviour.
- Setting appropriate limits may help cultivate self-discipline and responsibility in your child.
- Discuss with your child rules and limits you would like her to follow. Make sure they are clear, specific, in positive terms and age-appropriate. For instance, 'getting changed by yourself after school' may be a rule suitable for the 5-year-olds but not for the 3-year-olds.
Using assertive discipline with back up consequences
- Prepare your child in advance what consequence she will get if she does not follow the rule.
- Let her learn to be responsible for her own behaviour. For example, she has to learn that she is not going to ask for replacement if she has lost a toy due to carelessness; or she will have to go to time out if she hits her sister.
- The consequence must be related to the situation. No hurtful consequence such as shouting to the child, hitting or shaming her should be used.
- Be assertive and consistent in carrying out rules and consequences.
- You may worry about using firm discipline would make children unhappy or even hate you. Positive parenting means maintaining a close and harmonious relationship with your child while setting firm limits for her. When a consequence has to be used for her misbehaviour, you need to indicate to the child that it is the behaviour and not herself you disapprove. By doing so, assertive discipline will only help her learn to be responsible and make your expectation predictable. Your child will then have less emotional and behaviour problems and the relationship between you and your child will be more stable.
Leaflets 15 and 16 in this Parenting series explain the approaches of positive parenting in more details.
Partnership with school
Nursery and schools are places where your child spends long hours besides home. Therefore, it is important to choose one which shares the same values with you. Consider if:
- The curriculum favours the development of those facilitating factors of resilience. For example, whether communication and problem-solving skills are incorporated in the curriculum and children's strengths are developed.
- Teachers are aware of the importance of facilitating resilience at school.
- Warmth, guidance and support from teachers are available.
Collaboration between parents and teachers is indispensable in facilitating children's resilience:
- Maintain close communication with teachers about your child's coping in school and at home. Discuss with them on how to improve your child's behaviour constructively. Try out teacher's suggestions to encourage your child and let the teachers know about his desirable behaviour at home. You can also learn more about his behaviour in school and make suggestions to the teachers when necessary.
- Take an active role to participate in activities organized for parents at school such as talks, volunteer training and joint parent-teacher activities. While you can take the opportunities to equip yourself with knowledge and skills in parenting, you can also set up a role model of being eager to learn for your child.
- When your child sees your motivation to participate in school activities, he will be more involved in his school life. It will strengthen his sense of belonging to the school and increase the chance of seeking help from the school when needs arise.
Like fostering other qualities and skills, developing factors of resilience in children relies on your patience, tolerance and perseverance. It is a lifelong process. With your love and care, your child is ready to start the journey of resilience.