How to Speak to Your Child About Bad Behavior in Preschool

It’s embarrassing when your preschooler’s teacher sends home a note informing you that your little darling’s behavior was less than desirable that day. You may go through a moment of denial -- “Surely she doesn’t mean MY little angel." Or, you might become angry -- “He is never going to play outside again for the rest of his life!” Both responses are common, but neither under- nor over-reacting is the best choice when it comes to talking to your child about his preschool behavior.

Talk to your preschooler rather than at her, advises the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Kids do not like it when people talk at them. Your preschooler is perfectly capable of carrying on a conversation, which means you should include her in the conversation. Ask her why she misbehaved at school that day and listen to her while she explains herself. If she has no answer, prompt her by suggesting that she was angry, confused or scared and let her respond to your suggestions. Ask her what she thinks she can do differently at school in the future so she doesn’t get into any trouble. Include her in the conversation as well as the solution to help her feel more responsibility for her actions.

Speak positively to your child when talking to him about his bad behavior at school. According to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, your preschooler is more likely to comply with your directions when you use the word “do” in place of “don’t." For example, if your preschool-age son’s bad behavior consisted of hitting another child, refrain from saying, “Don’t hit other people." Say instead: “Keeping your hands to yourself is a really nice way to make new friends." 1

Talk to your preschooler about the consequences of her bad behavior at school, advises 1. Despite the fact she was probably disciplined already at school, you can still enforce your own consequences at home and she needs to know that. For example, you can tell her that if she misbehaves at school, such as not listening to the teacher, biting other kids, hitting other kids or being rude, she will not get dessert after dinner or she will have to go to bed right after her bath instead of reading a story before bed.

Make it a point to offer your child positive reinforcement when he handles situations correctly, advises This isn’t something you have to talk to him about, but if you notice he makes the effort to share toys instead of refusing or that he walks away from a child he’s mad at instead of yelling at him or hitting him, praise him. Your positive reinforcement encourages good behavior and it could eliminate some of the talks you have to have about his bad behavior in the future.