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I am frequently asked by parents and child care workers why there are so many “hyper” preschoolers today.

We all know such kids. Most of them are little boys who rarely sit still, spring from place to place rather than walk, squirm a lot, seem to be easily bored, go from one activity to another with the speed of light, and have great difficulty self-calming or self-entertaining.

In other words they act like whirlwinds and the havoc they cause at home or in preschool can seem like a tornado touching down.

I’m not talking about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I’m talking about normal, albeit sometimes impossible, preschoolers.

ALL preschoolers exhibit some of these behaviors some of the time. Running and squirming and jumping and darting from activity to activity is a preschoolers’s job description. But whirlwind kids have too many of these behaviors too much of the time.

Why this epidemic? I have no idea, nor do I know why boys are more likely to catch this whirlwind virus. But I suspect from observing preschoolers and talking with parents that both the WAY WE PARENT and the WAY WE LIVE today–the environment in which we raise our children–could be contributing factors.

Too many parents are guilty of what I call OVERPARENTING. They pay too much attention to their children, overstimulate them, and rarely leave them by themselves.

Some parents constantly hover over their children and are involved in every moment of their children’s lives. This sounds like the ultimate in parental devotion but there is a real downside. These parents don’t give their children a chance to calm down by themselves or self-entertain, or even play by themselves.

And those who overparent also UNDER-DISCIPLINE because such parents feel they can convince a preschooler to stop hitting a sibling by reasoning with the kid.

What about the way we live today, the way our homes look and sound? Is this a factor? Yup, let’s face it, most homes today are HECTIC. We live at TOO FAST A PACE for young children. They may run instead of walk by choice but they hate to be rushed because a grown-up is late.

And our homes are too NOISY. Toys beep or screech or repeatedly talk and some are exceedingly difficult to shut up. Maybe kids want a teddy bear or a Barney just to cuddle. The TV, radio, phone, beeper, computer, microwave–everything makes noises at us.

Between the brightly-colored toys, the hectic pace and the noise, our kids don’t get something most of us long for: peace and quiet.

Suggestions for parents who have a preschooler whirlwind: slow down, quiet down, use fewer words, discipline effectively and consistently, and put at least half of the toys away. You could be pleasantly surprised at the effect this has.

In addition devise lots of quiet times at your house: reading, singing quiet songs, listening to soft and soothing music together, If the child starts acting like a whirlwind softly say, “It’s time to CAAAAALM DOWN.” Then both of you should lie down on the floor and take a deep-breathing relaxation break. I suspect decreasing the noise and pace will work at preschools too.