Life Skills in Preschoolers- Is there such a thing?

For most of us, play is the most interesting and essential part of a child’s life. It’s so fulfilling to watch your child engaged in weaving stories or building a house. But today we take up the less interesting but more important part- the tantrums! Most parents of young children aged 2-6 complain about their child whining, crying, flopping to the ground, being stubborn, etc. Is there anything that can be done to prevent this? 

As a parent and a practitioner in the field of behaviour analysis, I can confidently vouch that these behaviors can be prevented. In our busy lives, we miss early signs of these habits developing. When the child is young, we find some of these behaviors ‘cute’. I am not here to judge. We all do this! But when it starts happening repeatedly we need to look around ourselves to find out what situations have we created to reinforce these undesired behaviors. Our children need to build life skills and become capable of dealing with these triggers and situations. 

Let me make this simpler for you. I have put together a few questions that will help you assess the life skills of your child. Building these skills will help your child overcome undesired behavior and gain reinforces more appropriately.

Skill I- Following instructions

Following instructions is a processing skill and can be complex for some children. 

  • Is your child capable of following one-step instructions?
  • Does he respond to his name?
  • When given a simple task, does he begin the task within a fair amount of time without having to repeat instructions?

Skill II- Functional Communication

Functional communication in a simple language means to be able to express when in need. This is expressed by not whining, crying, flopping to the floor, pointing to an object (when he can use words). 

  • Does your child ask for help appropriately? 
  • Does your child tell you he is hungry, thirsty, tired, hot?
  • Is your child able to get your attention when you are busy?
  • When engaged in an activity, does your child request a few extra minutes to complete the task at hand?

Skill III- Tolerance

For children 3-6 years of age, tolerance means the ability to wait for their turn or tolerating ‘no’ or ‘not now’. As parents there are a lot of times when we have to say ‘no’ to a child- with no alternative. 

  • Does your child wait for his turn to talk?
  • When you tell your child to ‘wait a minute’, does he say ‘okay’ and wait?
  • Does your child take ‘no’ for an answer?

It is okay if you answered ‘No’ to some of the above questions. Remember, most skills are picked by children by modelling parents, peers and siblings. Some need to be taught. By incorporating  these life-skills in daily routines especially with young children, we can help children avoid undesired behavior and be carefree about their tantrums.  

PS- This post is inspired by Greg Hanley’s Preschool Life-Skills Curriculum which is a step-by-step process to develop these life-skills in a preschool setting. I have picked the ones that apply to us as Indian parents. If you would like to know more about this, feel free to write to me.