While the temper tantrums that generated the nickname for the "terrible twos" are a fact of life for all but the most mild-natured toddlers, some children can be especially strong-willed. If you sometimes find yourself exhausted at the end of the day after engaging in what seem like constant power struggles with your strong-willed or spirited child, you may be wondering how your child will perform in a more structured preschool environment. Fortunately, a rise in homeschooling rates and public acceptance of alternative preschool curriculum has led to a boom in the number of preschool programs designed to fulfill the needs of the strong-willed child. Read on to learn more about some preschool programs in which your special child will likely thrive.
What should you look for in evaluating the best preschool programs for your strong-willed child?
Strong-willed preschool-aged children tend to struggle against any feeling of a lack of control -- either self-control or control over a situation. Because they don't have the vocabulary and emotional maturity to communicate these feelings in a constructive way, they tend to lash out through tantrums or antisocial behavior. Giving a strong-willed child several choices rather than directing a specific decision, setting goals together, and allowing your child to exercise his or her independence in harmless ways can all help your child accept and adapt to the reality that he or she will not always be in control.
When touring different preschools to make the right selection, you'll want to observe how the teachers interact with the children. Those who have a more authoritarian, "because I said so" tone may not click with your child's personality, while those who make an effort to include the children in all activities -- including cleanup -- may offer the kind but firm structure your child needs.
What are the best preschool curricula for strong-willed children?
With these principles in mind, there are a few specific modes and models of early childhood education that can benefit your child.
Developed by Italian philosopher and child education expert Maria Montessori, this educational philosophy focuses on teaching independence and learning through play. Montessori preschools often focus on sensory play to teach concepts like science, mathematics, and logic -- using kinetic sand, water, shaving cream, and other substances to experiment with cause and effect. Children may dance during music class to learn about their bodies and even perform culinary experiments to learn about smell and taste.
One of the hallmarks of a Montessori education is the fostering of a strong sense of independence. Although a Montessori day is structured into periods or "subjects," children are free to choose among several different activities related to this subject. For example, during art class, rather than being asked to draw the same bird or rabbit the other students are drawing, your child may be able to use clay to sculpt, watercolors to paint, or even pipecleaners to fashion his or her favorite animal. If you're interested in a Montessori education for your child, contact a school like Sammamish Montessori School.
- Reggio Emilia
Another Italian preschool philosophy, Reggio Emilia can be ideal for the strong-willed child due to its child-led structure. This program is highly individual for each child, as it allows your child to focus his or her academic attentions on the topics that draw particular interest. Because followers of this philosophy believe that early childhood is a time to dive deeply into a few close-held interests rather than memorize facts or practice obedience, this program may seem perfect for the child who throws a tantrum each time he or she is interrupted from a project that requires concentration (or is stopped from investigating something in which he or she has an interest).