Early childhood educators need a variety of ways to deal with children and their behaviors. It is important to understand that what works with one child will not necessarily work with another. Additionally, what works in one situation with a child may not work with that same child in the same situation at a later time.
Can the behavior of a four-year-old be managed? The answer is yes, at least to a certain extent. However, you must remember that four-year-olds are in the process of learning what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. While they are learning, errors and misunderstandings will occur. Helping young children learn to manage their behavior themselves is the ultimate goal and will require a great deal of patience on your part.
Remember the old saying, “Children should be seen but not heard?” Some teachers and parents/guardians still believe this. Often, adults measure the quality of a child’s behavior by the degree to which he or she is polite, neat, orderly, and quiet. If we examine these notions, we find that children will all have difficulty measuring up to adult expectations. Most children are noisy, messy, rude, and disorderly on occasion. Sometimes, adults cling to the management methods they know best. But these techniques are sometimes based on outdated notions about early childhood education. They might even work against the children’s best interests.
I invite you to reexamine your experiences as a child, teacher, or parent. I also ask that you explore the new approaches to teaching that I recommend throughout this program. I encourage you to stay with what you know works and, at the same time, remain open to new possibilities. Working with young children and their parents or guardians can be quite challenging and stressful. It is my sincere hope that you will avoid some of that stress while experiencing more of the joy that comes from helping children grow. One way to help children is by working with the people who ordinarily are responsible for them. Parents, guardians, and teachers working together will observe and learn from one another.
Let me share a story with you. Donna Harris is the loving mother of two-year-old Sierra. Since Donna works outside the home, Sierra attends a local child care center. Recently, Donna became concerned when she realized that Sierra was not making a smooth adjustment to a new classroom, evidenced by daily screams and temper tantrums. When Sierra’s teachers first discussed this with Donna they assured her that the problem was not serious and could be resolved fairly simply. After talking with Donna about possible changes at home to eliminate the influence of household stress, the teacher invited Donna to visit the classroom for an hour each morning during the children’s arrival time. After watching other parents drop off their children over a period of several days, Donna realized that she was negatively influencing Sierra’s adjustment. She was drawing too much attention to her departure and may have even wanted Sierra to cry a little to demonstrate attachment to her mother. Discussion with the teachers helped support Donna’s conclusions that this behavior was not healthy for her daughter. The result was that Donna began to change her style of departure in the mornings. Soon, happy smiles and waves replaced the daily tantrums and screams as Sierra’s mother left for work.
It’s essential to develop an accurate picture of all the circumstances surrounding problem behaviors. To do this you must learn and understand all aspects of a child’s health or family history that may be influencing the negative behavior. It is only when the signals of a child’s problems are ignored over time that he or she becomes difficult to help. Information obtained from parents and guardians can provide a strong foundation for helping children develop appropriate behaviors.