I know we’ve covered this before but I find the need to cover it often because, well, it’s a constant challenge.

Discipline comes from the root word disciple which means TO TEACH.  The thing you should be teaching?  SELF CONTROL

Discipline is all about self control.  If you are a disciplines adult, you are a person who can accomplish tasks on your own, you know the rules and limits of society, and you don’t need to be reminded of those rules…you follow them.

There are a few reasons the children “misbehave” (for lack of a better word).  Each on of these reasons have fairly simple solutions.  Let’s look at these reasons and solutions, shall we?

Attention:  Many times children act out because they want you to pay attention to them.  It’s as simple as that.  If they are looking for attention and can’t seem to get eye contact from you, they will pick up a block and throw it knowing that you will HAVE to pay attention to them. 

The fix is simple, give them attention BEFORE they need it.  If you know a child is going to need your attention, make that child your special helper in setting up activities or have that child, along with a small group of others, go with you to the center library to pick some new books out for the classroom library.

Boredom:  If they can’t find something to do, or don’t know what to do, they will FIND something to do…and MOST of the time it will be something that you DON’T want them to do. 

There are two fixes.  First, have plenty of INTERESTING activities available to them.  Set up the environment with many self-directed activities that are interesting to them.  Second, when you see a child wandering around not focused on an activity, go to them and bring them to an activity.  Don’t just tell them “Find something to do” because…they WILL find something to do, and you won’t like it.

Too low expectations:  Many times we don’t give the children enough credit and we don’t expect enough out of them.  We put out activities that we think are going to interest them, but in reality they interest them but, since they complete the task quickly, they get bored with it and…well, we’ve already discussed boredom.

Simply fix this by knowing the children and challenging them.  Put out puzzles that have several levels of a challenge.  I one time had 500 piece jigsaw puzzles out in my classroom because I had a child who could finish those in a day. other puzzles were way too simple for him.  Know what they can do and then make the activity one level more challenging for them.

Too high expectations:  Yes, if behaviors can be influenced by too low of an expectations, they can also be triggered by to high of an expectation.  If you put out activities that are too high of an expectation children will get frustrated and move away from that activity, they will then get bored…see above.

Again, know your children’s development and challenge them but if they seem to get easily frustrated from this activity, bring it down a notch.  You want to challenge them, not frustrate them.  I have never again had 500 piece jigsaw puzzles in a classroom because no other child has ever been at that level.  Anyone else would have been extremely frustrated.

Language Development:  When children can’t communicate, they get frustrated and will lash out aggressively.  This is why there is more biting in the toddler rooms than in the preschool rooms.  Toddlers are just learning to talk.  When you have a child with a speech IEP or any language delay, you will have a child who might lash out physically to get what they need or want.

This one takes a lot more work.  You need to support their language development.  Give them the words that they should say.  When they don’t or can’t say them, support them by staying on their eye level and turning to the other child and saying the words for that child.  You need to be a little careful because you don’t want them to rely on you solving their problems or getting their needs and wants met; but you want to empower them to do it on their own.  So you want to give them the words a few different ways and pausing between each opportunity to give them the chance to speak before talking for them.

Socially Inept:  ALL preschool children are socially inept.  Therefore, we TEACH them how to socialize.  Many times the conflicts and behaviors arise because they don’t know how to socialize.  A child will hit another child in order to initiate a game of chase.

Like the language, give them the words and behaviors they need.  “If you want to play with him ask, can I play, too?  Or ask, want to chase me?”  The ONLY way they are going to learn to socialize is by TEACHING them to socialize.  It takes a LONG time and a LOT of work…be patient.  They will get it, but you MUST be consistent and must not solve the problem for you but give them the words they need in order to enter proper social scenarios.

So, there you have it, the reasons and solutions to why children struggle with behaviors in the classroom and how to best help them.

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