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NYS Parent Guide

48-60 Months: Growth and Development

You and Your Fabulous Four-Year-Old

Guiding Your Child

Guiding Your Child

A four-year-old is filled with energy, imagination, drive, stubbornness, persistence, curiosity, creativity and confidence. This transition time between the very early years (birth to three) and entry into school is a “golden opportunity.” Use it to help your four-year-old learn and practice how you expect him to act within the family and community (self-regulation or self-control) and how to have positive interactions with peers and adults.

  • Help your child develop self-regulation. Self-regulation, sometimes called self-control, refers to your child’s ability to handle strong emotions, control his body’s movement and function and to focus and pay attention. For example, at times he can follow his bedtime routine happily even though you know he wanted to keep playing. Think about a classroom and you can see why your child’s ability to behave in these ways is so important.

Tips to promote your preschooler’s self-regulation:

Throughout this guide, there have been many suggestions about ways to support the development of self-regulation. Here are some other ways that are great for four-year-olds:

  • Play games that encourage body-control: Simon Says; Red Light-Green Light; Freeze Tag Play board games that require taking turns. (Don’t worry about the rules… your child will change them anyway!)
  • Play games that require planning: Build a block wall. See who can match the most pairs of socks. Talk about what your child is thinking.
  • Play: “What would you do if… you were a lion? It started to rain? You lost your shoe? It promotes conversation, imagination and problem solving.
  • Toss, roll, and kick a ball back and forth: This helps your child learn to wait and take turns.
  • Talk about his feelings, show empathy: Encourage him to talk about ways to cope with his feelings.
  • Encourage your child to use words and not physical actions when upset.
  • Use natural and logical consequences to teach your child that his actions can affect him and others. Take the time to talk through what happened and how it could have been avoided.
  • A “natural consequence” is what happens as the result of your child’s action when you don’t interfere. For example, you ask your son to pick up his book. He doesn’t and an hour later finds that the dog has chewed it.
  • A “logical consequence” is one you create when it would be unsafe for your child to experience the results of his own actions. For example, you find your child riding his bike without his helmet, even though you reminded him to do so. You can’t let him continue to ride because that could be dangerous. A logical consequence would be: no bike riding for a day.
  • Give him the chance to make realistic choices. This gives your child practice making decisions and lets him know you value his thinking and choices.
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