The Family Project: Punishing 4-year-old
Q. My four-year-old daughter is acting up in Pre-K, specifically at lunch and nap times. I have also caught her lying about things that she has done. What are some age-appropriate punishments?
The panel had an immediate negative reaction to the question about punishments for the four-year old.
Calling the situation “double indemnity,” panelist Denise Continenza said she struggles with the idea that parents have to deal with a child that does something wrong in Pre-K and suffers the consequences, and then comes home to more consequences.
“For a four-year-old, something that happens at noon doesn’t translate to 5 p.m.,” she said.
Everyone agreed that punishment administered hours after the bad behavior would be ineffective.
“Save punishments for really important issues, such as actions that threaten the child’s safety,” Continenza continued.
Panelist Erin Stalsitz said a better approach would be to check with the preschool to find out what is the daughter’s problem behavior, what is the behavior expected of her, and are there alternatives?
“Work with the teacher, and find out what you can do to help,” Stalsitz said.
“Whether it is preschool or high school, it is always best to get all the information first, identify the nature of the problem, and then work together with the teacher to find a solution,” Continenza said.
“Maybe the teacher’s expectations are too high, or the daughter is bored,” panelist Pam Wallace suggested.
“If the problem is that the daughter won’t take naps or is disruptive of others’ sleep, perhaps the teacher could give her something else to do to keep her occupied,” Wallace continued, noting that “some need is not being met.”
As for the concern about lying, Stalsitz questioned what the lying was about, and whether or not the daughter was actually lying or just making up stories. “She’s a four-year-old in preschool,” she noted.
Wallace added that what matters is whether the daughter really understands what she is saying, and if she is being deliberately malicious.
“This is setting the stage for the future,” Continenza said.
“Dealing with this situation is an opportunity for the mother to decide what kind of parent she is going to be, and how she is going to handle issues going forward,” Continenza continued, adding, “Is she going to be a hands-on parent and team player with the teachers, or a parent who doesn’t want to get involved?”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh County Children and Youth Casework Supervisor, and Denise Continenza, extension educator.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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