Behavior Issues in the Preschool

Why do children manifest inappropriate behaviors?

         In a preschool classroom one can observe a wide variety of behaviors ranging from appropriate behaviors with children seeking approval from adults and peers to hitting, use of inappropriate language, toileting accidents, refusal to share, temper tantrums etc.  In order for us as teachers to help the children, we need to have an understanding of why children behave in a certain manner.  Essa (1990) has outlined the following probable causes:

1.     Social learning:  This is where children learn from the environment.  Inappropriate behavior maybe as a result of limited social learning, or being reinforced for inappropriate behavior. 

2.     Environmental causes: 

·        Inappropriate developmental expectations of children

·        Health issues and allergies

·        Inadequate nutrition

·        Special needs and sensitivity to stimulation

·        Familial changes and stress

·        Physical environment

·        Inconsistent messages and lack of clear guidelines

·        Attention seeking tendency

How to deal with misbehavior?

          It is very important to guide the child through episodes of inappropriate behavior.  Educators suggest a wide variety of techniques.  Some of the techniques that I have used with relative success are listed below:

1.     Reinforcement:  Positive reinforcement is an important part of changing a child’s behavior.  One should however use it carefully and at the opportune moment.  When using positive reinforcement I would recommend the use of intrinsic motivators versus extrinsic or materialistic motivators. 

2.     Ignoring:  Some behaviors of children can be dealt with by ignoring them, but at the same time monitoring the child.  By ignoring the child we are letting the child know that this particular behavior does not warrant any attention, but at the same token we will look forward to a more positive behavior.

3.     Self-selected time out:  Sometimes when children loose self-control and indulge in misbehavior, one can talk to the children and find out what they feel are the precussors to them losing self-control.  So then you can let the kids know that if they feel like they are going to loose their self-control they let you know and maybe you can let them be by themselves for awhile.  But be sure and monitor the child who is in the self-selected time out. 

4.     Prevention:  Just like the self-selected time out, if you notice that certain activities of tasks causes the child to misbehave you may want to be around to help the child through the frustrating experience. 

5.     Redirection:  Get the child’s attention on another task or activity to get his/her focus away from the stimulant.

6.     Whole group or individual discussion:  Sometimes if the misbehavior is affecting the whole class it is useful to have a class discussion about it.  Then you could also ask the children for solutions and how to deal with the issue.

7.     Special one-on-one time with the child:  Some children tend to misbehave because they feel that this is the only way to get adult attention.  Quality time with children you know do not get this time will help them realize that they do not have to misbehave to get your attention.

Whatever the misbehavior might be try to have a plan up your sleeve to handle it.  It is sometimes helpful to create an action form that includes:

·       The behavior

·       Consequences for the behavior

·       Procedure that you used

·       The outcome

·       Plan for the future

This documentation will also be helpful to you if you need to get more help or talk to the parents or your supervisor about it.  The format of the above documentation can also vary depending on the misbehavior or each child.  You could also include a copy of this in the child’s portfolio.