Addressing Challenging Behaviors in Child Care: Positive Approaches to Discipline

February 20, 2023

As a child care provider, one of your most important responsibilities and often one of the most difficult challenges is helping children develop appropriate behaviors and social skills. It helps to have clear expectations for young children. Giving them a structured environment and boundaries to follow that allows for creativity, exploration and self-expression is ideal.

While most children are generally well-behaved, some may exhibit challenging behaviors that can be difficult to manage. In these situations, it's important to address the behaviors in a positive and effective way.

Discipline is often associated with punishment. However, young children, having limited experience, more often require direction than harsh consequence. Children generally want to be accepted and included. As they learn social skills, children begin to understand the rewards of sharing and taking turns. In the meantime, positive approaches to direction, rather than punishment, are more effective for healthy social development.

Below are some suggestions for positive approaches to direction that can be used to address challenging behaviors in child care.

Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is rewarding children for exhibiting positive behaviors. This approach encourages children to repeat those behaviors and can lead to long-term changes in behavior. When you notice a child behaving in favorable ways, such as sharing a toy with a friend, you might praise them for being kind and generous.

Redirection is bringing child's attention toward a more appropriate activity or behavior, naturally pulling their attention away from an inappropriate behavior. For example, if a child is throwing toys, you might redirect them to a more appropriate way to interact with the toy or to a different activity altogether.

Natural Consequences
Natural consequences are the naturally occurring outcomes that happen as a result of a child's behavior. For example, if a child refuses to wear their coat on a cold day, they will feel cold and uncomfortable. They will likely learn very quickly to make a better choice.

Time-in is a technique that involves taking a child aside and spending time with them to help them calm down and process their emotions. This can be an effective approach for addressing behaviors that are driven by emotional reactions, such as tantrums or hitting. Young children do not act out in emotion because they enjoy it. When this happens, they are likely overwhelmed. Learning to calm themselves and then finding a positive solution will give them lasting coping skills.

Children learn much of their behavior from watching the adults and older children around them. By modeling appropriate behavior yourself, you can help children learn how to behave in a positive and respectful way. For example, your participation in sharing and taking turns, will make children more likely to adopt those behaviors themselves.

When addressing challenging behaviors in child care, it's important to remember that every child is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. By using positive approaches to direction, you can help children develop the skills they need to succeed socially and emotionally and create a safe and positive learning environment for everyone.

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