6 Skills Your Discipline Should be Teaching Your 4-Year-Old

Prepare Your Child for School with These Social, Emotional and Behavioral Skills

Once your child turns 4, you’ve got a small window of time to get him ready for school. And while it's important to make sure your child knows some academic skills, like his ABCs, before kindergarten, it's even more important to make sure he has the emotional and behavioral skills he'll need to succeed in school. 

Healthy Ways to Express Emotions

African American father talking to son
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Your 4-year-old is much more likely to be successful if he can label his feelings and express them in socially appropriate ways. Use flash cards with faces to help him identify how someone might be feeling.  

Pause TV shows or take a break when reading a book to talk about how a character might be feeling. As his knowledge of emotions increases, teach him more complex feeling words such as embarrassed, disappointed, frustrated and worried.

Once your child can verbalize his feelings, show him how to deal with those feelings. Role model appropriate coping skills and help him identify how to cheer himself up when he's sad or how to calm himself down when he's angry. 

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Problem-Solving Skills

Preschool is a great time to start teaching problem-solving skills. When your child makes a mistake, help him recognize what he could have done instead. Make sure to do so in a non-shaming way, however.

When your child breaks the rules, use it is a teachable moment. Ask questions such as, “If your brother grabs your toy, what could you do instead of pushing him?”

Talk it through with your child to help him recognize there are many different ways to solve problems. Praise him when he makes good choices.

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Anger Management Skills

Although 4-year-olds want to be independent, they often lack the skills to be able to complete tough projects on their own. As a result, they can become frustrated frequently.

Establish house rules about aggressive behavior. Teach him that it is okay to feel angry but not okay to hurt anyone or destroy property.

Blow bubbles with your child as a way to teach him to take deep, calming breaths and teach him to use “bubble breaths” when he’s mad. Also, show him he can take a time-out on his own before he misbehaves and encourage him to ask for help when he needs it.

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Kids at this age should be developing increased independence as they begin to do things on their own. Teach your child how to begin making healthy choices for himself.

Assign simple chores to begin teaching self-discipline. A 4-year-old can clean his room or put his dishes in the sink. Provide a small, simple allowance to begin teaching him self-discipline with money.

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Impulse Control

Four-year-olds are impulsive by nature. However, impulse control is very important and can have a big impact on the rest of a child’s life.

Start teaching delayed gratification by creating a reward system. Allow him to earn a small reward now, like a sticker or token but save the bigger rewards for the end of the week to teach patience.

Play games that require impulse control. “Red Light Green Light”, “Simon Says,” and “Mother May I?” are great ways to help kids practice managing their impulses. You can also turn other games into an impulse control activity. For example, play “I Spy” but make your child think of two possible answers before blurting anything out.

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Pro-Social Skills

Focus on teaching your child pro-social skills every day. Show him how to greet someone, how to respond when asked a question and how to make eye contract.

Most 4-year-olds need lots of practice when it comes to sharing and playing nicely with others. Around this age is when many kids start developing competitive attitudes. Teach your child to be a good sport and help him learn to empathy. 

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