The key to encourage positive behaviour in young children is to let them know that it’s okay to have strong feelings like anger or frustration and that there are strategies to help them manage these feelings in a positive way. In this month’s Ilm o Amal, TRC staff looks at ways that can enable teachers to instill positive discipline in their students.
Children learn and exhibit positive behavior all through their years in preschool. As a significant and nurturing adult in a preschooler’s life, teachers should help build their confidence by recognizing and celebrating their positive behavior. This will enable children to continue to develop their ability to make good choices and exhibit positive behavior as they grow older. When a child’s positive behavior is acknowledged it encourages them to repeat the behavior, eventually becoming their ‘normal’ reaction. All adults who are in a caregiving role should be patient during the process of instilling positive behaviour because it takes time for young children to learn and imbibe appropriate behavior. This is especially true when a child’s reaction or behavior is challenging.
Following are a few tips on ways you can instill discipline and positive behavior in preschoolers.
1. Be a Role Model: One of the most important ways of encouraging a particular behavior is to model it yourself. Children frequently learn from watching how adults interact with others. If a significant adult in their life is patient, kind and helpful, they are likely to be the same in their interaction with their peers and others. So make an effort to model the behavior you want to see in them.
2. Offer choices: Offer your young students lots of chances to make choices throughout the day. This helps children get a sense of control as they go about accomplishing their daily tasks. For instance, when it is time to read to the class, let your young students take turns to decide which book will be read that day. Or, when it is time to clean up, ask a child whether he or she wants to push in the chairs or pick up the blocks. Offer a child a choice of snacks if you give them in your classroom.
3. Acknowledge Appropriate Behavior: When a preschooler displays kindness and helpfulness, praise him or her or give a hug to reinforce that behavior. You can say something like ‘I saw you waiting patiently for your turn Madiha. Thank you for doing that!’ or ‘You picked up all the books and put them back on the shelves, Nael. Great job cleaning up!’
4. Set Expectations for Appropriate Behavior: Teachers should ideally work with the children at the beginning of the academic year to set down behavior expectations. However, if you have not done that, it is still not too late. Work with your young students to discuss and develop a list of classroom expectations that clearly outline what is and is not acceptable behavior. As a teacher you can also put children in situations where they get a chance to practice the expectation and receive feedback about their behavior.
5. Help them with challenging behavior: If a child’s response to a situation is particularly challenging, help them by offering a chance to problem ‘solve’ their behavior. You can do this by giving a child the chance to ‘change’ his response to something and do it again. This can be powerful exercise. Another way to deal with challenging behaviour is to get children to practice their response through role play. Role play can help children look for positive ways to solve problems and cooperate. Give children lots of positive encouragement when they do this.
6. Help them to calm down: Teachers are ideally placed to teach children strategies that can help them calm down. By remaining calm herself, the teacher can role model the behavior she wants modeled. She can also teach children breathing strategies or other ways that can help them calm down, when they are not upset. When you see a child adopting appropriate behavior give lots of positive encouragement. Following are various strategies that you can adopt that can help children calm down:
- a. Take the child away from the stimulating environment, sit with him or her and ask them to breathe slowly and deeply. Ask the child to touch the stomach while he or she does this and watch their breath. They can also count their breaths.
b. Children can also process their emotions better if you ask them to draw a picture of the incident that made them angry or upset. They can do this during or after the incident. Encourage them to open up and talk about what happened and write it down under the picture.
c. Provide a soft object, such as a cushion, a pillow or a soft toy to the child so that he or she is able to express themselves physically. Encourage him or her to talk about what he or she is feeling.
Using these strategies, as and when they are required, you can help the children in your care feel safe, secure, and loved. By doing this you are helping lay the foundation for healthy social and emotional development of children, which will eventually help them become happier individuals and succeed in school and in life.