Parenting a preschooler can sometimes feel immense and impossible. The sheer fact that my kid might have lifelong memories of something I did or said haunts me at night. I’ve already trudged through the muddy waters of newborn and toddler stuff and came out (barely) on the other side with some sense of confidence and strategy. But with my firstborn, I wake up each day to unknowns and I’m often up at night Googling how to best connect with him.
I have found that if I’ve talked with my son about something, it helps tremendously if the concept is reinforced by some sort of media. For example, we’ve been talking a lot about wasting water. Money and worth, in general, are very hard concepts for small children to wrap their brains around. I initially tried with “water costs money” and that approach was a giant intangible fail. So now, when the water is running while he is watching his tongue dance in the mirror, I tell him that we don’t want to waste water because it is a precious resource and it might go away someday. Just like the trees in “The Lorax.” He seemed to get that.
My 4-year-old is a very emotional guy who can sometimes be burdened with anxiety and negativity. It has taken me a long while to stop wishing for a happy, smiley child and be at peace with knowing my child has an inward joy and deep emotional awareness. Parenting him has taught me so much about empathy, listening and seeing a situation not just for the good–but also for any possible disappointment or anxiety. For example, he recently needed to have allergy testing. We waited until the day before so there wouldn’t be time for him to dwell on it all week, but also not to spring it on him the morning of. We told him that it would be lots of scratches and yes, there would be needles. We told him it was OK to be scared and that my husband and I would both be there. And then we watched “Daniel Tiger Gets a Shot” and told him, “Close your eyes, and think of something happy.” We talked through a wonderful day at the beach as our happy place. The next day, while he was incredibly anxious about the visit, he did great with his allergy testing – even with 32 scratches!
I know there is a slippery slope when it comes to media and children. As someone who didn’t let my firstborn watch TV until he was over the age of 2, I get that. I also feel like my parenting is lifted up by quality media that is relatable to my children. They crave similarity between their own experiences, fears, and questions, and those of others—even if the “others” are imaginary tigers on TV.
To that extent, these are some of the books that I’ve found most helpful in parenting my preschooler:
Julia Cook is a genius. She is able to convey something that is so annoying, in a funny and relatable way. This book follows Louis through some trouble controlling his words both at school and at home. We started reading this book when my son was 3 and it is still in our rotation. We are known to give reminders, “Your mouth is a volcano, please breathe in and hold on to your important words.”
Again, Julia Cook. I might as well name my child Louis because they seem to be personality twins. Personal space is a very big concept and just to have a book talking about it is great.
This book is new to us and I love it because when I find our son being negative in an otherwise positive situation, I can remind him to pull out his “Magic Sunglasses.”
This book is at the crux of our parenting philosophy of kindness and empathy. We started reading it when my son was 2 and we currently read it to our toddler as well. Some of the concepts are large but my kids caught on very quickly that how we feel about ourselves is directly related to how we treat others. We ask our children how they have filled a bucket each day and when they do things that hurt us we say that they have dipped into our buckets.
This book thankfully came to us through PJ Library, as it might not have been one I would have picked up on my own. What I love about this book is that it ties being a good person directly to Judaism, something my son loves and feels deeply connected to. When my son has typical 4-year-old behavior I often hear my husband warn, “Be a mensch,” and really enjoy that positive request as opposed to, “Stop hitting your brother.”
I’m really glad that Louis, Estie, and Daniel Tiger make mistakes that my son can relate to. That connection with the imaginary world makes all of his big feelings seem a little less scary.
Tell me, what books or media have helped reinforce your parenting messages?