Strategy #1: Stay in Control by Unhooking and Remaining Composed
As the adult in the classroom, it’s up to you to make sure that you maintain control by not getting angry, defensive or otherwise emotional when behaviors happen. Projecting these emotions creates shame, blame and guilt, which can cause children to withdraw or continue the unwanted behaviors.
Instead, focus on maintaining understanding and compassion while still reinforcing age-appropriate consequences. Your guidance and good faith will help children stay confident that they are validated and supported, which leads to better outcomes in the long run.
Strategy #2: Observe and Document Behaviors to Understand the Cause
To know how to best address behavioral issues in children, it’s important to record it when it happens. Whether unexpected behavior is a one-off or a recurring issue, taking the time to document it while your memories are still fresh will help you know why it happened and what are the appropriate next steps.
Consider what situation led to the behavior, whether it could have been prevented, and what can be done to most effectively address the behavior given its origin. By identifying patterns you'll be able to make sure you’re meeting each child’s individual needs.
Strategy #3: Discourage Mild Misbehavior by Focusing on the Behaviors that Are Helpful
For children, attention is a reward in its own right. Often, children will act out in mild ways out of a desire for connection. For this type of behavior, drawing attention to it can reinforce the action and send the message to the child that unhelpful behaviors are rewarded with positive attention.
By shifting your attention to children who are demonstrating safe behavior, coupled with consistent reinforcement of positive behavior, children are able to observe positive behaviors that are rewarded with positive attention. After shifting your attention off of the child exhibiting unwanted behaviors, be sure to complete the lesson: keep your eye out for the next time you can positively affirm good behavior in the same child.
Strategy #4: Establish and Enforce Effective Boundaries
While positive reinforcement is the primary way to ensure children live up to your classroom expectations, setting boundaries and implementing age appropriate consequences is necessary to motivate children to reduce unwanted behaviors. The children will be able to develop appropriate skills if they understand the classroom expectations and understand possible outcomes if the unwanted behavior occurs.
The goal of setting boundaries is to help children make progress toward modeling the behavior you want to see. To foster that growth, any consequences should have a clear connection to the behavior involved — for instance, if a child is misusing a toy, a natural consequence would be that he will have to show that he can work with it safely before using it again.
Strategy #5: Collaborate with Parents
Parents are a vital ally in guiding children toward being on their best behavior — after all, it’s a goal they share, too! Take advantage of the valuable insights parents can offer from their extended one-on-one time with their children: they can help you know how best to respond to behavior in your classroom.
By working together, you can ensure that your approach to behavior is consistent and effective, without causing confusion with differing expectations. It’s also a great way to build trust and nurture relationships with families, by showing them that you’re their partner in helping their child reach their full potential.