Early childhood educators continually assess and nurture all domains of growth in children and recognize the social-emotional domain as a predominant source of growth and frustration for young children entering the world of social interactions and conventions. Behavior management for a young child implies the presence of abilities that will: control impulses, wait and suspend action, tolerate frustration, postpone immediate gratification, initiate a plan and carry it out over a period of time, concentrate, and sustain behavior. These abilities are nurtured through interactions with warm, supportive adults who use positive guidance, helping children feel safe and secure. Adults model self-control, tell children what they expect, trust them to strive to control themselves, actively teach children how to control themselves, and reinforce self-control in daily interactions. Adults help advance children’s social development when they understand and commit to the premise that learning to get along with others, like all other learning in life, requires adult support and positive guidance and when they know and practice teaching strategies that guide children to resolve their conflicts, peacefully and productively.
Children are actively involved in establishing rules in the classroom that ensure physical and emotional safety. Non-compliant, unsafe, or disruptive behavior is utilized as a teaching moment. Teachers assess such situations, approaching quickly if necessary to stop hurtful behavior. Children are approached at eye level and asked to report on what has and is happening, every participant’s version being valued. Their feelings are acknowledged and described. The problem is restated and solutions are sought from the children; the teacher may guide the final resolution but children’s participation is encouraged and reinforced.
In situations where children’s immediate safety is compromised or a child is too upset to participate in the group’s activities, a teacher will intervene and the child may be removed from the group until calm enough to rejoin. At no time will the child be left alone and the time outside of the group will be viewed as time to calm and collect feelings and behavior. Once the child has regained control, she/he will be guided to verbalize the preceding moments and encouraged to express the feelings that led to the disruptive, negative behavior, as well as describe or be offered suggestions of acceptable alternative behavior. Should such behavior persist, parents will participate in conferencing with teachers and the director, and an appropriate plan of action will be devised and initiated.
Punishment teaches fear, engenders resentment, and devalues risk-taking. Furthermore, it emphasizes external control, not the internalization of guidelines and appropriate and safe behavior. Per regulations of the Department of Early Education and care, it is stated that the following restrictions shall be strictly observed as they are viewed as extreme punishment and are harmful to children:
- Corporal punishment, including spanking, shall not be used.
- No child shall be subjected to cruel or severe punishment, humiliation, or verbal abuse.
- No child shall be denied food or force-fed as a form of punishment.
- No child shall be punished for soiling, wetting, or not using the toilet.