A challenging behavior is a pattern of conduct where a child does not obey rules, expresses feelings in a serious or intense way, refuses to follow guidelines that are in place for his well being and safety, and does not show understanding about consequences or danger.
As educators, we have the responsibility to observe, understand, and redirect challenging behavior. Below are 5 suggestions for identifying and addressing challenging behaviors in your setting:
- Forecast the bad behavior: After spending most of your day with children, you will begin to understand which transitions or situations are more challenging for some children than others. Try to observe what about the situation makes a child not follow certain rules or makes socializing with pairs a little difficult. Once you understand a child’s triggers, it will be easier to prevent challenging behaviors from happening and find alternative activities.
- Label emotions: Invite the child to label the emotion he is experiencing and the impact it has on him and others. Help him understand how some emotions sometimes lead us to say or do things that we will regret later. Use this Feelings Display from FunShine Express to help children identify feelings.
- Offer coping strategies: When helping a child manage his feelings, it is important for him to learn that there are ways to deal with his emotions. Offer coping options to choose from to help him deal with his feelings. Some options may be to go for a short walk or to do the candle breathing technique.
- Model good behavior: Children learn from what they see and hear. As adults, a huge part of teaching children good behavior is modeling good manners and using our own behaviors to teach them the importance of being kind to others, showing respect, and following rules.
- Offer positive affirmations: Identify when the child is having a good day. Name the child and say a sentence that emphasizes the positive behavior he is showing. Describe what you see him doing and how proud you are of him. This will help the child associate positive words with positive actions and enjoy that feeling.
Monitor children’s behavior constantly. This will help you identify when a behavior is consistent with a child’s age or phase or if it needs to be addressed in consultation with a behavioral health professional. A behavioral health professional is needed when a child experiments with eating disorders or if he is showing signs of endangering himself or others.
- Challenging Behavior in Young Children: Understanding, Preventing, and Responding Effectively by Barbara Kaiser – Learn more about how to deal with behavioral issues in your setting.
- Train Your Angry Dragon by Steve Herman – Help children understand and visualize how having control of their emotions can help improve their behavior.
Remember, too, that behavior management requires a significant amount of an ingredient that can’t be found in stores. A skill that is not taught in schools or books. An essential ingredient that is only found deep in our hearts…love.