Establishing limits is necessary when you encounter difficult children in a preschool classroom. Many times children act out to test their boundaries. Most preschool-age children are still developing their social skills and adjusting to classroom dynamics, where the rules may be different from the rules of their home. Effective discipline is an important element in providing a classroom environment conducive to learning. Disciplining preschool children entails a structured plan with consistent methods.
Redirect behavior. If a child is acting out in class, find a way to correct his behavior in a subtle way without distracting the rest of the class. For example, if he’s throwing crayons on the floor, approach his desk, remove the crayons and explain that coloring time is over because he is not using the materials appropriately. Then assign him a new task, such as reading, puzzle time or math.
Hold a conference with the student. Be firm, yet calm when you speak to the child. Make sure your conversation is private. Chastising her in front of the class may escalate the situation. Remove her from the class activity; explain to the child what classroom rule was broken and why it was inappropriate behavior. Give the child an opportunity to explain her behavior. There are many reasons as to why children act out.
Apply consequences. If the behavior was a single incident, then a firm verbal warning reiterating the classroom policies and importance of following rules should be your first step. Establish consequences depending on the severity of the offense. Some examples include taking the toy away from the child or withholding privileges such as recess or play time. Excluding the student from a fun activity that the rest of the class is participating in may capture the child's attention, as he’ll notice how much fun the “well-behaved” students are experiencing. The timeout strategy is an additional approach that may help diffuse a heated situation.
Avoid a power struggle or argument. You are the teacher and establishing your boundaries and rules are important if you want to be successful.
Remain firm. Do not bargain. Many difficult children will try to negotiate and plea their way out of a punishment. Consistency is the most important part of a discipline policy. It helps establish a solid foundation for rules and guiding principles.
Be impartial. If you apply the rules to one student, make sure you enforce those rules when dealing with other children. Try not to be biased when it comes down to classroom policies.
Keep a detailed log. Documenting inappropriate behavior for each student is a helpful way of tracking the infractions and the methods used to address the situation. This can be useful when meeting with the child and parents. Presenting a visual history puts the behavior in perspective.
Involve the parent. Speak to the parents regarding any outbursts, violence or disrespectful behavior. Maintaining an open line of communication with the parents about the rules and discipline policy is important. Working in conjunction with the parent can help curb difficult behavior.