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Your 3-year-old now
If you were to stick your child's fingers under a microscope, you'd see a long and potentially scary record of where she's been all day. She may still be putting things indiscriminately into her mouth. If she's in preschool, she's sharing germs with all her classmates. Plus she may be using the bathroom by herself. All good reasons for making hand-washing part of her daily routine.
Insist that your child wash up before snacks and meals and after coming in from outside. Keep a step stool near the sink so she can reach the faucet. Show her how to work the hot and cold taps. Demonstrate how to rub soap all over the top and underside of the hands, also getting between the fingers. Sing the ABCs while she lathers as an easy way to make sure she scrubs for at least 20 seconds. Teach her how to dry with a hand towel and thank her for replacing the towel when she's done.
Some kids respond to a simple rationale: Explain that there are invisible germs all over her hands and that it's important to make them disappear down the drain where they can't make her sick. For others, it works better to stress the pleasures of bubbles and water and to let them practice by washing up toys and dolls.
Your life now
Whether from pride or exasperation, sometimes parents inadvertently label their children: "You're so sassy." "Stop being stubborn." "Aren't you handsome?" "Sara's so shy." Whether negative or positive, labels can limit a child's horizons and sense of herself. (Think back to the labels you may have gotten from your own parents – were you the cute, ditzy one or the brainy "ugly duckling"?) Better to be specific about your child's attributes and accentuate the positive as well. Instead of telling someone your child is shy, for example, you could say, "Sam is reserved in new situations, but once he warms up he has a lot of fun." Rather than "You're so pretty," try, "Wow, did you pick out that pretty red dress all by yourself?"
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