Managing behavior seems to be the most difficult aspect of teaching – not just young children, but all children. We can learn a lot about behavior management by just understanding the following basics:
- Behavior is learned: behavior serves a specific purpose and is a means of communication; children with ongoing behavior have realized that their behavior works for them, which is why they continue to do it.
- Behavior is contextual: it is specific to the context within which it occurs; the same behavior in another context may serve another purpose.
- Consistent and appropriate interventions must be in place for a specific amount of time to see a change in behavior: for older children, that period of time is one month for each year the behavior has been in place. For young children, consistent and appropriate interventions must be in place equal to the history of the challenging behavior.
- Behavior can be improved by 80% just by pointing out what one person is doing correctly: children learn better ways of behaving by intentional teaching and learning AND by receiving positive and informative feedback.
- The success ratio is 5:1: Students need five positive feedback comments to every one re-direction.
- Whisper in their right ear: Students will listen better and be more compliant when we whisper in their right ear and offer choices that are of equal value to them.
- Behavior falls into only 2 categories: Students are either trying to gain something or escape something.
- Students are try to gain: attention (from adults or peers), access (preferred object or activity) or sensory input (proprioceptive input).
- Students are trying to escape: an activity or task, attention, sensory, or pain.
- The adult reaction will determine whether or not the behavior will happen again.
Additional resources to help successfully manage challenging behaviors in young children are:
Parts of this article were adapted from Dr. Laura Riffel. Her website is another good behavior resource: http://behaviordoctor.org/.
Understanding the Top 10 is the foundation to being able to successfully manage behaviors in the classroom. Building positive relationships with students and parents, designing an environment that is safe and productive, intentionally teaching social and emotional skills, and reinforcing wanted behavior are the keys to a healthy classroom.