The Body and Soul of a Preschooler - FamilyEducation

The Body and Soul of a Preschooler

Learn how to accept and even encourage the way your child expresses emotions. Validate her feelings and support any nonviolent ways that she expresses them.


Remember that your child will look to you as a model of how to express emotions. So make a point of expressing your own emotions honestly.


Try to encourage your preschooler's use of words to express emotions—especially anger and frustration. It can help to reduce conflict—or at least provide an alternative to physical attacks. Whenever you notice your child using words or some other means to avoid violent behavior, applaud him and let him know how proud you are.

Despite her dramatically improving verbal skills, your three-year-old will often still express her emotions physically-and histrionically. When angry, she'll hit, push, stomp, or yell. When sad or disappointed, she'll throw herself down on the floor and overact a protracted death scene. When happy, she'll squeal with delight.

Don't bother trying to tell your preschooler to control her emotional expression. First of all, she probably can't do it anyway. And second, if you forbid or attempt to curtail your child's physical expression of emotions, you may deny her the emotion itself.

Remember, your three-year-old probably doesn't have all the words she needs to express everything she feels. If you tell your excited preschooler to sit quietly or restrain herself, you can unwittingly transform her excitement into frustration and even sadness. So try to accept and even encourage the way your child expresses emotions. Support her feelings and any nonviolent way that she expresses them, whether that means tears, kicking the floor, or bouncing off the walls with joy.

As the year goes by, your three-year-old's expression of emotions will remain very physical, but she will acquire additional tools (words) that will enable her to express her feelings in other ways. Certainly tantrums and other dramatic displays of emotion won't disappear. But your child will begin to use words to voice her emotions, too.