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Techniques for preschool age children
techniques for preschool age children
Use Positive Verbal Guidance (Responsive Language)
Children often forget what constitutes appropriate behavior from one day to the next and from one situation to another (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1999). They need frequent reminders of the rules; if corrective action is necessary, adults should be clear but non-accusatory. Responsive language utilizes positive verbal guidance that is respectful towards children, labels and validates children's feelings, and clarifies rules and responsibilities. Responsive language gives reasons and explanations to children (Stone, 1993). Adults actively listen to children and respond in a sensitive manner.
State rules in positive terms
Tell children what to do instead of what not to do. Try to eliminate "stop," "don't" and "no" from your statements to children (except to keep a child safe in an emergency).
"Please walk" rather than "Don't run."
"Eat your food" rather than "Don't play with your food."
"Sit down flat so other children can see" instead of "Don't stand up."
Make requests and give directions in respectful ways.
"When you are finished eating, please throw your napkin and cup in the trash can."
Validate children's feelings
"I know that it is hard to wait for a turn. But other children want a turn too."
Model the Behavior You Want a Child to Follow
All young children benefit from a visual model of what to do, but this is especially important for children with developmental or language delays. Couple the modeling or demonstration of proper procedure, with direct explanation—otherwise children may not imitate the desired behavior themselves at a later time.
Show the child exactly what you want while giving verbal directives.
"Put your backpack under your seat like this."
"After you dry your hands, throw away the paper towel right here."
Verbal descriptions of desired behaviors are especially needed when the adult wants to model resisting temptation or delaying gratification.
"It's really hard for me to wait for a turn on the swing. I want to run up there right now, but I will wait until Sarah is done."
Reinforce Appropriate Behavior
The most effective method of managing children's behavior is through the application of positive reinforcement. When teaching a new behavior, it is best to reinforce every time the behavior occurs. New behaviors require immediate and continuous reinforcement to be learned and maintained. For more complicated behavior, it is important to reinforce small steps. For example, to reinforce a child who is cleaning up the block area, which to her appears to have about a million blocks spread all over the floor, ask the child to put five blocks on the shelf, and then praise her. Don't wait until the entire job is completed.
Behaviors that are followed by positive reinforcement are likely to be strengthened and repeated.
Use social reinforcers (smiles, praise, pat on the back, wink, OK sign) and activity reinforcers (engaging in a special activity as a reward for desired behavior). Tangible reinforcers (stickers, stars, prizes) should be used only for short periods of time when other types of reinforcement fail to work with a particular child.
Use effective praise: praise that is selective, specific, and positive.
Offering choices gives children some control over their own behavior, shows respect for them as individuals, and encourages independence. When children are given options to choose from, they are more likely to cooperate and meet classroom expectations.
"It's time to clean up the house area. Which will you put away, the dishes or the dolls?"
Limits and Reasons
Giving children reasons for the limits you set is part of teaching. Even infants and toddlers who are too young to understand the words you use will still understand the tone or rhythm of the words. The tone or rhythm will convey to the child that the adult is concerned for her and not merely angry. Stating reasons also helps adults make sure there is a basis for the limits they set, which helps to eliminate unrealistic limits. It is important that limits are purposeful; too many limits may hinder the development of a child’s sense of independence and competence
Know the child
Watching, listening, and learning about a child’s temperament, interests, and learning styles often demystifies behavior and helps adults guide the child. Adults working with young children are extremely busy, but will nonetheless find it invaluable to take the time to learn and remember the uniqueness of each child. This enables adults to greatly enhance the guidance they provide by respecting, responding, and building a relationship with each child
Sometimes adults “tweak the truth” to expedite issues. For example, an adult may tell a child that a toy is broken just to keep the child from playing with the toy. Another example, that is often tempting for well-meaning parents, is sneaking out the door because it seems easier than letting the child see that you are leaving. These “quick fixes” will most likely make guidance and trust harder in the long run.
Young toddlers get embarrassed when they think they have done something wrong. The adult should be discreet and gentle, yet firm and consistent, when guiding young children. The goal is to make sure children know they are being guided not reprimanded. Therefore, messages sent by the adult should be empathetic (e.g., “I know you want to continue playing, but it’s clean-up time. You can play with the toys tomorrow”). Messages should also be purposeful for the individual and community (e.g., “I want to make sure you are safe, so please walk”). When accidents and mistakes happen, as they inevitably will, it is helpful to convey messages such as “these things happen” to the child.
Making Verbal and Nonverbal Messages Agree.
Have you ever had someone use a sugary voice to tell you “no way?” Wasn’t it annoying and frustrating to be given this type of incongruent message! How can adults ensure that their nonverbal messages are congruent with the verbal guidance they are seeking to give children? It is important to be aware that your tone and body language fit your words.
Showing the child respect will help her know she is being guided not punished. The following three tactics will help: 1) Move to the child, instead of calling over to her; 2) Squat or kneel to her level; and 3) Look kindly into her eyes.
When an issue arises, it is sometimes beneficial to avoid a struggle with the child by directing his attention elsewhere. This strategy is very successful with toddlers. For example, sharing is an abstract, difficult concept for young children to understand. So, when Sarah pulls the toy dog away from Charles, it is helpful to remind her, “Charles has the dog, here’s one for you.” If there is not another stuffed animal around, the teacher or parent may take Sarah’s hand and say, “Charles has the dog right now, let’s find something special just for you.”
Most children respond to adults’ joy. How can you tap into this joy to help guide children? It is not appropriate to laugh at a child, however, it is appropriate to laugh at a situation with a child. For example, if a toddler starts using peanut butter as a hand moisturizer, the adult may smile at the connection the child is making. In this case, it is important to remind the child that if she wants to rub something on her hands, she should use lotion, not peanut butter.
Allow Natural Consequences
A natural consequence is when an action happens and the natural outcome is what guides the child. For example, if a child breaks all her crayons she will have to make do with broken crayons. It is important to make sure the outcome is safe and does not impact the child’s needs. For instance, if a child is learning to use a toilet and soils her pants, it would be punitive to make her stay in dirty clothing.
Work with the Children
Activities, such as clean-up, can invite misbehavior. Instead of saying, “You need to clean-up before we go outside,” use your imagination. Four examples of turning chores into games are:
Listen to the sound that bristle blocks make when you put them into the basket.
Are you going to put away the square or round blocks?
You’re in charge of driving the trucks back to the parking spaces in the box over there.
Please put the doll babies down for their nap.
Help children feel that they are capable, worthwhile, and able to do things. Feeling dignity and confidence enables children to try new things and approach new experiences with confidence. Ridicule, sarcasm, and belittling comments destroy confidence. Guide children with constructive, clear, and supportive words.
Use Mistakes as Teaching Tools
Treat mistakes, errors, and accidents as steps to learning—everyone makes them as they try new things. Share some of your mistakes—“Oops, I mixed too much water into the paint. Next time, I better measure more carefully.” In doing so, you help children know that adults too have accidents and can still learn. Build a learning environment that discour- ages failure and promotes success. e Kind
Activities, such as clean-up, can invite misbehavior. Instead of saying, “You need to clean-up before we go outside,” use your