Preschoolers: Competent & Capable as They Discover

Preschoolers: Competent & Capable as They Discover

Our children are capable, competent beings from birth. Often the struggles we find ourselves caught in with our children can be eased by recognizing and honoring their age appropriate capabilities. And with their capable, competent selves appreciated and affirmed, we can now build a strong foundation for the future independent and successful adult we all hope for.

This continuing series at Positive Parenting Connection will be covering the different ages & stages from Babies on up, bringing you great information about each phase of childhood. Part one was about Babies, Part two Toddlers.

This is part three: Preschoolers


Threes, fours, and fives—wow. The growth in these years is astounding and due to this we are often caught trying to catch up with just how capable and competent they are. Preschoolers can:

• Use their imagination and truly pretend. Our job? To give them plenty of lengthy times to play without our direction. Just play—this ability to imagine and create needs time and space to nurture and is essential for optimal brain growth and all future learning.

• Express themselves loudly and exuberantly! Rather like a volcano exploding at times. Giving them the space and opportunity to be loud and exuberant respects this energy in them; steering them gently towards appropriate expression is our job. “I can see you are really, really mad. Letʼs stomp our feet extra hard down the hall and get your mad out!” “Quiet voices are for the library. I can see you really want to use your loud voice. Letʼs head outside and you can be as loud as you want.”

• Share! Watch this emerge from turn taking to really playing with another, freely trading back and forth and imagining together. Is it a bit reactive at times? You bet—necessarily so. Sharing comes with feelings of disappointment, frustration, patience, joy. Notice it, affirm it, and do your best to stay out of it. Preschoolers are quite good at figuring things out when adults stay on the sidelines instead of in the mix, “Looks like you both are wanting to use the truck. What can you do about that?”

• Take care of their bodyʼs needs quite well, from toileting to bathing to eating. Give them lots of opportunity to wash themselves (and do your best to let go of perfection),choose and prepare their own snacks, decide how much of their meal they want to eat until they feel done. Our job? Ask questions such as, “Would you like help in the bathroom? Let me know if you do.” “You feel full? Okay. Iʼll save your plate in case you change your mind later.”

• Cook, clean, create. Include them often in meal preparation—show them the recipe, let them measure things, help them stir things in the frying pan; include them in chores—they like to feel a part of what makes a family and home work. Show them how to work with tools—hammers and nails, screwdrivers, paint—real and meaningful work.

Preschoolers need our calm, consistent, caring interactions; our affirmation and naming of their BIG feelings; our focus and celebration of their abilities rather than the results of their attempts.

Be amazed by your preschooler—and up the ante on choices and opportunities to be in charge of themselves.

As you focus on preschoolerʼs capable, competent self, your child can feel more in charge of her self and respected and encouraged by you—truly empowered! From this place of empowerment you will discover your job gets easier, your relationship more joyful, family life richer.

Celebrate your childʼs abilities today!

About the Author
Alice Hanscam is a PCI Certified Parent Coach®, Certified Screamfree Trainer, and owner of
Denali Parent Coaching. Visit her website at or contact her at
868-6933 or for more information.

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Alice is a PCI Certified Parent Coach® with a B.A. in Child Study and a graduate level certification for coaching through the Parent Coaching Institute and Seattle Pacific University. She is a proud mother of two (nearly) grown daughters who are spreading their wings and leaving smiles behind as they go. Click here to purchase Alice's new book: Parenting Inspired: Finding Grace in the Chaos, Confidence in Yourself, and Gentle Joy along the Way

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