Little children can have big feelings and exhibit big, sometimes not-so-desirable behaviours! It is a very normal part of their development to test limits, have tantrums and say ‘no!’ as they learn to assert themselves.
For some children, their challenging behaviours can be particularly pronounced. Toddlers and preschoolers may exhibit anxiety or distress by biting, snatching, running away, bullying, or in other ways that you won’t find acceptable.
Whatever the behavioural challenge, one thing remains consistent – positive behaviour management strategies are much more likely to be successful than negative ones. Little humans respond much better to proactive rule-setting, encouraging words and positive role modelling than punishment or being constantly told ‘no’.
So what behavioural management strategies are likely to work well for the children in your care? The Green Elephant Early Learning Centres offer this advice.
Setting Rules or Limits to Young Children
Children do not come into this world knowing the ‘rules’. They need to be actively taught the best ways to behave in different situations, with a clear set of guidelines and limits. These things help ensure that they can play and interact happily and safely.
Providing clear, consistent rules is also beneficial for children because it gives a sense of comfort. When a child does not know what is expected of them, they can become anxious about getting things wrong and may act out.
Think about a time when you attended a party where you didn’t know anyone or joined a new club. You most likely felt apprehensive about not knowing what to expect or how to behave. Once you understood these things, you no doubt felt much more comfortable and developed a sense of belonging.
Children, too, feel uneasy in unknown situations. You can help them by spelling out what they need to do to be successful and reiterating it often.
Setting rules and limits are great behaviour management strategies for early childhood, but to be effective, they need to be consistent and positively worded. It is also important that rules serve a meaningful purpose – such as ensuring everyone gets a fair share or making an activity safe.
Keeping Rules Consistent For Effective Behaviour Management
It’s ideal to have the same rules across all settings, including at home and in childcare. This isn’t always possible, but it helps to keep an open dialogue with parents. It is also important to have clear guidelines within your childcare, and to discuss your childcare’s approach with parents at enrolment, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Using Positive Wording Strategies To Support Positive Behaviour
Children respond better to hearing ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’, or ‘do’ rather than ‘don’t’. Communicate rules using a positive phrase. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t leave the blocks out”, you can say, “Please pack up the blocks after playing.”
This ensures children also know what is expected, rather than just telling them ‘no’ and leaving them to figure it out.
Setting Good Examples for Children
Children learn from the behaviour of those around them. Toddlers and preschoolers will take their cues firstly from the important adults in their lives, including their parents and childcare workers. It is so important that adults demonstrate the same behaviour we want them to display.
We can role model positive behaviours such as sharing, speaking kindly, providing comfort, waiting patiently in queues, and so forth. It can be helpful to vocalise what you are doing, so the child takes note. For example, saying, “Oh, Jenny is already using my scissors. That’s OK, I can wait until she has finished.”
It is equally important to demonstrate positive behaviour when we haven’t done the right thing, or have become angry. Showing how to admit a mistake, apologise, or take time out to calm ourselves down, are all important lessons for young children to observe.
In addition, one of the key behaviour management strategies for toddlers in childcare is to use children as good examples for each other. Most children are naturally inclined to observe and be like their peers, so ensuring positive behaviour is the rule in group situations allows children to observe role modelling from their peers.
Encouraging Children to Set Good Examples for Each Other
Adults can encourage children to model good behaviour in group settings by openly verbalising expectations. For example, announcing: ‘We pat the guinea pigs gently on their backs.’ It is also important that negative behaviours are seen to be addressed so that children clearly see what is not OK. Clarity and consistency are key for effective behaviour management.
Using Questions To Help Children Reflect On Their Behaviour
It takes time for children to see through others’ eyes and understand the impact of their behaviour on others. We can help them take this developmental step by asking questions such as ‘How would it make you feel if …?’ It’s important to keep your tone calm and gentle and to focus on the child’s learning rather than on blame.
Using Praise Effectively To Promote Desired Behaviour in Children
The words we use to encourage children are important. Children typically desire to ‘do a good job’ and will do well when they can. Showing children how to do things the desired way, with rules and role modelling, then offering plenty of praise, are great behaviour management strategies for early childhood.
Conversely, negative words can really batter a young child’s confidence. If they are often getting the message that they are ‘wrong’ or ‘naughty’, they can feel like they’ll never be able to win approval, and so may give up trying. They may even begin to match their behaviour to the messages they receive. Negative words can cause a negative spiral resulting in more undesired behaviour.
‘Bad’ behaviour rarely arises because a child wants to be bad, but more because they are not presently equipped to do better. It’s important to remember this when faced with challenging behaviour, as it can help you to respond with encouragement, rather than a telling-off.
Providing positive encouragement helps children feel safe to try new things, building both their competence and their confidence. That feeling of safety is an important basis for building resilience, to recovering when things don’t go their way.
Finding Opportunities To Use Words of Affirmation
Try to ensure that you find at least one opportunity every day to praise every child in your care – more often is even better. Catch them doing something kind, trying something new, tidying up or demonstrating another desirable behaviour, and acknowledge their good work with words of praise.
Wording Your Praise Well
Be clear on what behaviour merited your praise. For example, rather than simply saying, “Great job” or “Good boy”, specify “You have made the room so tidy by putting your toys away”. This reinforces with clarity the expected behaviour and puts the focus on the action being ‘good’ (or not good), rather than the child.
Be Part Of Sydney’s Childcare That Uses Positive Behaviour Management Strategies
At The Green Elephant Early Learning Centres in Sydney and surrounds, we support our educators, and work in partnership with families, to ensure a joyful environment for play and learning for every precious child that joins us.
The Green Elephant Early Learning Centre locations are:
To find out more, reach out to our team by email, or on 1300 353 742. We welcome new parents, and dedicated educators, to join our happy family.