PRESCHOOL BEHAVIOR MGMT
Disclaimer: Most of this information is not my own, a lot is from my favorite attachment guru Katharine Leslie. This particular chapter came from a preschool teacher training I gave while working as a director at a large private preschool.
Nurturing is ESSENTIAL – Always comfort upset children. It won’t spoil them or make them more clingy and dependent – in fact it does the opposite, because the child will trust you to be there. Children should be held frequently to build a trusting bond.
Emotional Regulation – Young children and children of trauma frequently need help with emotional regulation (many have never learned how to self-soothe). The child needs that from you. You need to stay calm, use a soothing voice, and have steady, even breathing. Eventually the child will match your level (if you are excited and angry...).
Calming Techniques – EMDR/ Tapping/ Brain Gym/ Biofeedback
Holding a child - When picking up a child, ALWAYS pick the child up by the child’s torso – NEVER an arm or other extremity, or clothing. Be careful to bend and lift with the knees. Children should not be tossed, flipped, or held in a manner that makes them uncomfortable.
Let the child know what is happening - Always talk to the child about what you are doing -- before you do it, while you are doing it, and after you are done. Always alert the child BEFORE picking the child up (using their name helps). Let child know you are planning on picking the child up and what you will be doing next. If the child is too heavy to lift, have them sit in your lap, or let them sit next to you with your arm around them (this can build nurturing while reducing eye contact – which can be over-stimulating and stressful if the child is not ready).
The Four types of communication – there is actually one more type beyond the usual written, verbal and body language. Kids can actually sense our emotional state. If they sense you are scared, angry or dysregulated then they will reflect that state. Try to stay calm and positive using a loving, pleasant tone of voice. If you can’t stay regulated then try switching out with a partner, taking a personal timeout, find ways to recharge your batteries, and care for the caregiver!
Greetings – Focus on being positive with a child, especially the first interaction of the day. If you can do nothing else, at least smile!
- Make things fun – create special memories! (ex. Letter parties - We plan our evening around a letter. The child helps with the shopping and planning. If the letter is P - then we might have a Pizza Picnic in the living room wearing our PJs and watching a Pirate movie... )
- Get down to child’s level when speaking to them - if that means sitting on the floor, then do it!
- Always speak to child with respect.
- Pleasant tone of voice (never yell) – it is possible to be firm and still have pleasant tone.
- Avoid yelling across a distance – go to the child and speak quietly and firmly.
- Teach children to respect other people and their belongings
- Teach children to respect other people’s work areas and products (art work, lego tower, etc)
- Teach children to respect other people's "bubble" - "Use your gentle hands," "Keep your hands to yourself," "We ASK before giving someone a hug."
• Compliment Sandwich – if you have to deliver a negative (try a Compliment Sandwich – positive, negative, positive).
• Speak Softly – While working in childcare, I often found loud, chaotic rooms where the teacher barked out orders and spoke louder and louder to get the children’s attention… which the kids ignored (I assume the caregivers sounded like adults in the Peanuts cartoons – “Wha Wha…”). Classrooms where the teacher spoke softly and calmly were the classrooms where the children were listening and regulated. When a loud caregiver was trying to change the interactions, it helped to whisper, quietly inviting the children to do something interesting and then rewarding them for complying with requests. The children began paying attention to the teacher so they wouldn’t miss out on anything fun.
• I strongly recommend never discussing anything you don’t want a child to hear or using inappropriate language where little ones can hear you! Even if you are sure they are not paying attention; they are like little sponges and will mimic what they hear.