Let’s Talk: Choosing Your Battles

When it comes to preschool it seems like there are two types of teachers: those who make a fuss over everything and those who don’t make a fuss of anything at all. One problem that I commonly experience is teachers going into a conflict without committing to their plan and the results they want. For example, say you are doing a small group activity and a child takes one of the materials to another part of the classroom. If you are going to say “the ____ must stay here in the ____ area”, you need to stand by that rule. Oftentimes however, some teachers will give such a command, the child continues the negative behavior, and the teacher gives up trying to correct it.

What does this say to children about rules in general, or listening to adults? Are you really setting rules, or are you merrily giving suggestions? In addition to respecting adults, children need to understand the importance of listening to commands for personal safety. If they are doing something that is potentially dangerous, the need to know to stop what they are doing if you say no. 

Tips for Intervening in Conflicts:

1. Choose your battles- before you intervene decide how bad is the behavior that is taking place. Ask yourself:

-is this child harming him or herself or in potential danger?

-is this child harming or disrupting the learning/teaching of children and adults in the class?

-is this child being disrespectful to school property (furniture, toys, etc.)?

For example, if a child is not sitting up while he or she is eating, you would need to intervene as this could potentially be dangerous (choking). But here is another example, say you are conducting circle time and there is one child in particular who has a hard time sitting in the circle with the rest of the group. He or she likes to roll on the floor outside the circle, but when you ask him or her a question about the lesson they know what’s going on. In this scenario, learning is still taking place and as long as they are not disrupting other students, it’s probably not too big of an issue 🙂

2. Make a plan and commit to it!

If a situation requires you to put your foot down, decide how you are going to give direction in a positive manner and what steps you will take if the child does not listen.

Back to the example with the child not sitting up at the table, you would start with a positive command. What I mean by that is instead of saying “stop leaning your head back when you are eating”, you could say “sit up in your chair like I am sitting”. Also explain in an appropriate manner why you do not want them to continue sitting incorrectly in their chair. Be prepared for the chance that the child might not follow your command the first time. If your going to stand up for a rule at all, commit to it!

3. Nip the negative behavior in the bud!

Timing your directions is also very important. Don’t wait until the second, third, or forth time that a child continues a negative behavior. Set your expectations from the very start.

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