Toddlers and preschoolers can be a handful! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, between 24 and 48 months of age your daughter is achieving lots of social and emotional milestones. With her newfound physical strength and skills, your little one will start actively exploring her environment, her personality, and your limits. This period of time is a crucial for her development, but it can also prove challenging for a parent. At this early age, curiosity is accompanied by impulsivity and risky behaviors, determination comes along stubbornness, and independence can quickly shift into defiance.

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Because toddlers can be difficult, developmental psychologists have devoted a lot of research into how certain techniques or parenting skills can promote a happy and healthy relationship between the parents and their children. In 2005, researchers Liliana Lengua and Erica Kovacs from the University of Washington found that when parents used positive parenting tools with their preschoolers, over the course of one year this was associated with a decrease in irritability, defiance, fearfulness, and rejection; and was correlated with an increase in both the child’s positive emotions and the caregiver’s acceptance and consistency.

According David Kerr, professor of psychology at Oregon State University, using positive parenting will not only make your life easier, but will also help your daughter’s social and emotional skills throughout her life. So, here are some ideas on how you can use positive parenting while enjoying your child’s preschool years:

  • Encourage her to express her emotions and accept them instead of acting out.
  • Give choices instead of commands. Because your kid is just starting to state independence and autonomy, this can help you avoid a power struggle, or a sharp “no” on your child’s part. It is important to give her options you are okay with.
  • Say “no” from time to time, but really mean it when you do. Keep the limits reasonable and consistent.
  • Try to create an environment that’s both safe and open for exploration. Child-proofing requires some work and investment, but this will greatly reduce the stress of constantly prohibiting dangerous activities.
  • Give positive attention to good behavior, recognize progress, and praise success.
  • Be interested in understanding the reason behind the acting out of your little girl before jumping to conclusions.