Guiding Young Children’s Behavior
Guiding young children’s behavior after the honeymoon is over can be very challenging for preschool teachers.
Many young children in daycare go through a “honeymoon period”. The beginning the of a new school year you find children acting on their best behavior, not knowing how new teachers will react otherwise. Early October is usually when we see this period begin to end as children become familiar with their new environment and new teachers. Undesirable behavior may begin to emerge at this time when the honeymoon is over. This is when teachers need to remain calm, firm, and patient. This is when the old adage Never let them see you sweat comes in handy!
Many times behaviors are negatively reinforced through reprimands. For example, lavishing a bitten child with tons of care and attention, with your back to the biter, will go much farther than turning our back to the injured while taking time to place the biter in time out. A calm teacher can help the children learn empathy. You can learn more from Virginia’s Cooperative Extension’s article Guiding the Behavior of Young Children
Rather than the cursory “I’m sorry” teaching children to ask “How can I help you feel better?” will serve them better in the long run. Holding a cold compress or getting the tissue for a crying ‘friend’ will truly help children learn that others have feelings too. Taking time to get children to this point can be challenging and will pay off later when conflicts arise. I’ve seen three year olds ask another if they can help them feel better without teacher prompts many many times.
NAEYC is a great go-to place when we are experiencing challenging behaviors. Their article Planning for Positive Guidance: Powerful Interactions Make a Difference is full of helpful insights.
Even after using many preventive strategies incidents can still happen. Establishing clear guidelines for expected behavior, natural consequences, and calm classroom atmosphere will keep them short and isolated incidents. Once the honeymoon is over teachers truly begin to know the children. The skill in guiding young children’s behavior is in finding bliss even after the honeymoon is over!