Linda Levin
Linda Gellman Levin holds a dual Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and in Special Education.  In this new exclusive SmartFem column Linda will address your tough questions on the difficult and important job of raising children.

Dear Linda,

My oldest is four and I’ve always made sure to tell him how proud I am of him and tried to make him feel empowered even if he didn’t do something very well. Then, if I see he has room for improvement I give him an “idea to try next time” so he can focus on areas to better himself. Lately I’ve noticed he is very convinced that he is already great at the things he does. He is so convinced that he sounds cocky. I’m concerned because he starts school next year and I’m afraid the other kids will tease him and burst his bubble. Do you have any suggestions on how to prevent a major heart break in my little boy? —Lindsay

Praise your child for accomplishing things.

Dear Lindsay,

First of all, your child is in an ego-centric stage of life, developmentally. That means he sees himself as the center of the universe. It is difficult for him to acknowledge that he may not be successful in a task. My suggestions are:

–   Watch out for suggesting anything negative about his character (i.e. being a good/bad/naughty boy). Praise him for accomplishing things such as good listening skills, following the rules, putting his toys away, etc.

–   Discuss what he is working on at that time, such as, if he throws a ball, you might suggest, “Show me how to roll a ball!” Then throw the ball with your right hand and show him which hand is his right hand. If he is doing a painting or doing an art project, don’t suggest it is “wonderful” or “fantastic.” Ask your son to tell you about the painting. This will help him express himself without it being about good/bad, right/wrong, etc.

–   Four year olds may share or brag about themselves at this stage of life. Don’t be so concerned about other kids teasing him, so much as modeling situations for him and working on that for now.

–   I would suggest that you might want to read more about four and five year olds developmentally.

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