Preschool educators frequently have trouble managing children’s challenging behaviors, such as throwing things, disturbing other children’s experiences, kicking, hitting, etc. While problematic behaviors are brief and straightforward to manage, they are persistent and severe in some cases. The latter may intervene significantly with children’s education and engagement in social cooperation with peers and adults. Studies document variability in socio-emotional skills (e.g., self-regulation, empathy, and cooperative behaviors) of young children. Preschool children who enter school with deficits in these areas may have a disadvantage and may face severe difficulties adjusting to the new educational setting. Also, if gaps in socio-emotional development continue over time, there can be severe impacts in other areas.
Prevention is better than cure!
Contrary to a more typical view of intervening only when difficulties arise, everyone would agree that prevention pays off! With this plan in mind, I will share some standard precautionary methods related to aspects of the classroom setting that preschool educators can use deliberately. These practices intend to increase the likelihood of positive social behaviors, reduce children’s problematic behaviors, and the need for extra and more intensive interferences.
- Prepare a pleasant and distinct classroom setting
The natural arrangement of the classroom and the materials available are essential pieces of the classroom setting that can affect children’s performance and peer interactions. Therefore, educators can limit the event of challenging behaviors and improve children’s social behaviors and engagement in experiences by:
(a) Clearly describing the limits of each learning block.
(b) differentiating active work areas from quiet and calm play areas.
(c) avoiding congested spaces, so that movement in the classroom does not hinder experiences.
(d) including enough different and meaningful materials for children
Regular and predictable daily events plans, including balanced small and large assembly experiences, active and quiet activities, free play, and structured experiences, can also improve the possibility of children being involved in positive behaviors.
Transitions between experiences or routines are one occasion when challenging behavior is more likely to occur. One way educators can lessen the waiting interval between activities or practices and ensure that children know what to do at these specific times. Transitions can also be expedited by visual (e.g., a banner representing the order of experiences and routines during the day with images of the children themselves) and textual cues (e.g., preparing few minutes before transition, using a typical song as preparation for transition time).
- Explain and educate children about the expected behavior
Some children may exhibit inappropriate behavior because classroom expectations are not clear. Clear classroom rules and routines are crucial in promoting children’s learning of appropriate behaviors. Considering the classroom behavioral expectations and the challenging behaviors, teachers with children’s participation can establish behavior rules: simple, positive, and easy to follow (e.g., Walking feet please; gentle touch, please, Clean up). Rules should be represented in the classroom (with photographs of children exhibiting desired behaviors) and revisited frequently with children, especially before moments that challenging behaviors are most likely to occur. It is essential not to ignore positive reinforcement and recognition. This is particularly true for the children who display the appropriate behavior (e.g., “Zac, I liked the way you helped clean up that puzzle”) to increase the possibility of such conduct occurring more frequently.
What is the role of teacher-child connections?
The benefit of any strategy to handle children’s challenging behaviors depends on one essential condition: the presence of an emphatic and trustful relationship between educators and children, defined by friendly, sympathetic, and compassionate interactions. Numerous studies have documented those children who encounter positive interactions with teachers, and other adults are more inclined to display more prosocial skills and fewer behavioral problems. For this reason, building a classroom setting where all children feel appreciated, happy, and secure should be a priority!