Good parenting in 4 paragraphs, toddler to preschool edition

Telling a toddler or preschooler "no" doesn't teach him what you want him or her to do.

Instead of saying no, try: 1. giving a positive direction to his urge; 2. distract and redirect; 3. offer choices that lead to the behavior you want; or 4. childproof the situation. Children naturally want to please adults and get that positive attention, so work with it.

Use those 4 tools to guide the child, and add one more: teach him or her to think for himself. Example: "It's cold outside, do you want to be chilly or warm?" (warm!) "What do you need if you want to go outside and stay warm?" (coat!) -- do this a few times and he'll start thinking it through on his own.

Once a child learns to do something on his own, never do it for him, even if you're tired, or it's late and you're in a hurry. Responsibility cures misbehavior, and the first responsibility we all have is toward ourselves. As a parent, it's your job to make sure your child takes on that job as soon as he or she is able. Whether it's cleaning up a mess they've made, making other good behavioral choices, problem solving, negotiating, or simple social skills that lead to forming friendships, the sooner your child learns to take an active role in his or her own life, the sooner you'll have a little freedom to enjoy their new skills and achievements with them.

Engaged parents, happy babies

Engaged parents, happy babies