Are you looking for support in managing challenging behavior in your classroom? As early childhood educators settle back into the classroom, we’re here to help. With everything going on in the world, many children are experiencing additional stressors at home that may contribute to challenging behaviors in the classroom. Keep reading for our 4 tips on understanding challenging behavior and managing your classroom with ease.
Before the age of six, children process information at a rate that is 12 times slower than adults. For adults, speaking at a “normal” pace can create confusion and conflict, which can lead to power struggles.
Additionally, young children do not yet have the capability of conjugating verbs with ease—as Dr. Becky Bailey of Conscious Discipline says, “When we say, ‘Don’t touch the lamp,’ they hear, ‘Touch the lamp!’” As adults, we see this behavior and might believe that the child deliberately defied the command—but, in fact, their brains simply cannot properly conjugate and understand the language yet.
As you navigate power struggles in your classroom, consider incorporating opportunities for relationship-building and play. According to Conscious Discipline, research indicates that the motivation to behave is often driven from a relationship. Building opportunities for connection into your daily routines will help alleviate power struggles.
When navigating feelings of frustration or anger that arise in the classroom, take a proactive strategy—remember that frustrations are a part of life for us all and these feelings will pass in time:
Listen to the child. Ask the child questions to understand their perspective and their frustration. Stay patient and pay attention to their words and body language. Limit your speech to simple phrases and talk in a quiet, low voice.
Offer a solution. Strong emotions—especially for young preschoolers—are both overwhelming and all-consuming. Embodying a calm, empathetic, and compassionate response helps the children in your classroom learn that their emotions don’t need to overpower them.
Many teachers rely on fear-based discipline in an attempt to control the children in their care—but this is rooted in the belief that we can make others around us change. As Becky Bailey notes, “We can only really change and control ourselves, and doing so will have a profound impact on those around us.”
Fear-based discipline is detrimental to a child’s learning and brain development. Many children acting out with aggressive behavior—such as hitting, biting, or inappropriate language—are often just seeking connection. Taking a relationship-based, community approach to classroom management will help prioritize connection and culture. Conscious Discipline recommends relying on games and rituals to encourage a feeling of unconditional love for an angry or aggressive child. These rituals can help calm and balance negative feelings.
For young children, consistency is paramount. Their brains naturally seek patterns—and the more consistent your classroom routines are when dealing with frustration, anger, or unruly emotions, the more your students will engage in a consistent response.
Consistency also helps provide feelings of safety and security to a child, giving them the opportunity to learn and explore instead of feeling the need to protect themselves.
If you’re in need of additional classroom support, we’re happy to assist! Submit this form to our Training and Technical Assistance team or call 910-938-0336 for more information on assistance and coaching opportunities related to classroom behavior.