While it's far from atypical to see a toddler throwing a tantrum or a precocious preschooler talking back, early childhood classroom management is key to running a successful learning environment. Choosing positive, age-appropriate strategies to manage behaviors, set rules and dish out discipline is a must for day care, preschool and other early childhood educators.
A haphazard classroom that has no understandable rhyme or reason won't do much to keep the kids' behaviors in check. The National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests that early childhood educators create a routine or class schedule to provide consistency and limit issues such as transition-fueled tantrums. A regular routine gives the young students a sense of predictability and comfort that may keep behavior issues at bay. Provide your students with the daily schedule in a way that they can understand. For example, make a picture of the chain of events that features a preschooler eating breakfast, a girl playing with blocks, a boy playing outside, kids eating lunch, children taking naps and parents picking up their students from school.
Testing Time Outs
When a child gets out of control, knowing what to do and how to handle the situation is essential for proper behavior management. Time outs offers a way for you to remove the offending child from the situation and bring a sense of calm back to the room. The pediatric pros at the KidsHealth website recommend using one minute of time out time per year of the child's age. When an outburst erupts, a child throws a tantrum or aggression rears its ugly head, remove the child and put him in time out until he settles down.
Observe and Manage
According to the national early childhood organization Zero to Three, observing young children can help adults to better understand their behaviors and find possible causes for unwanted actions. Running a well-managed classroom means that you are knowledgeable about your students when it comes to understanding what stresses them out or can quickly cause conflict. Before coming up with a behavior management plan, observe your students during all parts of the day to see what instances cause conflicts or bad behaviors. When you know what precedes behavior problems, you can take steps to stop it. For example, if you observe that the transition into nap time is always fraught with crying jags and outbursts, play soothing music or ease the children into the sleepy-time activity with a quiet story.
Remaining calm during the school day isn't just a challenge for the children, it's also often a struggle for teachers as well. To effectively manage your classroom, you'll need to have your own strategy for keeping calm in the face of aggression, outbursts and defiance. Don't forget that the children are always watching you for cues on how to behave. Losing it and screaming at a disrespectful preschooler sends the wrong message and will only add to the stress. Instead of giving in to your own internal anxieties, take a deep breath or two to relax or give yourself a mental time out. Keeping your behaviors under control is a must and will only serve to add to an overall sense of serenity in the classroom.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.