Early Childhood Behavior Management: Developing and Teaching Rules
Early childhood teachers need to be prepared to support and promote appropriate behavior in young children. Children who understand what is expected of them are more likely to display appropriate behavior. However, the expectations of a school setting are novel to young children as they begin their preschool years, and they cannot be expected to understand immediately how to respond to the expectations within a school and classroom environment. Although schools might have expectations, or general ways they would like all children to behave (e.g., be safe, be responsible, be respectful), these are often too abstract for young children to understand. Teachers should develop classroom rules that help make these expectations more concrete, observable, and measurable for the children in their care.
It is essential that early childhood teachers establish rules. To do so effectively, a teacher should:
- Follow appropriate guidelines for establishing rules
- Involve children in the development of the rules
- Explicitly and systematically teach the rules
- Provide individualized support to children who need it
- Provide rule reminders
- Offer positive feedback to children for following the rules
- Communicate with families regarding the rules
In addition to giving rule reminders and offering positive feedback, some teachers choose to use a classroom reinforcement system. Using a proactive, reinforcement-based approach is more appropriate than using a reactive, punishment-based approach.
Revisiting Initial Thoughts
Think back to your initial responses to the following questions. After working through the resources in this module, do you still agree with your Initial Thoughts? If not, what aspects of your answers would you change?
(Opinion) Do you think Mrs. Rodriguez’s current behavior management system is working? Explain.
How can teachers help young children learn expected behaviors?
How can teachers encourage and reinforce expected behaviors?
When you are ready, proceed to the Assessment section.