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Developmentally appropriate child guidance: Intervention strategies for dealing with challenging behavior that facilitate social competence. Dr. Will Mosier Professor of Early Childhood Education Wright State University. What are the objectives of child guidance?.

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dr will mosier professor of early childhood education wright state university

Developmentally appropriate child guidance: Intervention strategies for dealing with challenging behavior that facilitate social competence

Dr. Will Mosier

Professor of Early Childhood Education

Wright State University

what are the objectives of child guidance
What are the objectives ofchild guidance?
  • Help children learn the same basic rules for responsible living that are applicable to adults living in a democratic society
  • Help children learn self-control
  • Help young children learn the difference between “right” & “wrong”

Help children understand:

  • Behavior must not infringe on the rights of others nor present a risk of harm to the environment
the ultimate goal of discipline
The ultimate goal of discipline
  • The goal of discipline is not to control or manipulate children externally
  • The goal of discipline is to stimulate inner control

(Accepting responsibility for one’s own behavior & respecting the rights of others

is the ultimate demonstration of what constitutes a fully-functioning adult)

3 questions to ask before initiating interaction with a child
3 Questions to ask before initiating interaction with a child
  • Will my interaction with this child have any negative impact on the child’s:
    • Cognitive Development?
    • Emotional Development?
    • Social Development?
two approaches to adult child interaction for problem solving
Two approaches to adult-child interaction for problem-solving
  • When the child has a problem and is requesting help

Required skill: Communicating empathic understanding

  • When the child’s behavior is unacceptable (causing me or someone else a problem)

Required skill: Non-blaming confrontation

roadblocks to problem solving when the child comes to you with a problem
Roadblocks to problem-solving when the child comes to you with a problem

1. Ordering 2. Threatening

3. Blaming 4. Labeling

5. Moralizing 6. Lecturing


7. Advising

8. Analyzing

9. Praising


11.Probing (questioning)

12.Diverting (distracting)

how can children be helped to understand their feelings
How can children be helped to understand their feelings?
  • When responding to a child’s request for help it is vital to address the child’s underlying feelings
  • When children consistently hear adults modeling empathic understanding, they will eventually imitate the same expressions
how to communicate to children that you are listening to them
How to communicate to children that you are listening to them
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Smile attentively
  • Use appropriate touch
  • Use verbal responses that encourage the child to talk
  • Focus your attention on the feelings behind the words
  • Reflect back to the child what you are understanding without judgment
  • Don’t rush the child’s explanation, wait patiently for the child to complete his or her thought
    • Impatience can discourage a child from sharing their feelings & stifle language development
common listening errors
Common Listening Errors
  • Analyzing the child’s meaning
  • Parroting what the child said
  • Rushing the child’s feelings
  • Adding more meaning than the child intended (overshooting the intent)
  • Leaving important concerns or feelings out
  • Lagging behind if the child has moved on to another feeling
goals of non blaming confrontation
Goals of Non-blaming Confrontation
  • To nurture change in behavior
  • To preserve self-esteem
  • To facilitates self-control
  • To strengthen your relationship with the child
the 3 components of non blaming confrontation
The 3 Components of Non-blaming Confrontation
  • Identify the behavior that is unacceptable
  • Share your feelings in response to the behavior
  • Tell the child what you are going to do because the unacceptable behavior occurred (Identify the consequence of the action in terms of your behavior, not the child’s behavior.)
confront unacceptable behavior with a three part i message example
Confront unacceptable behavior with a three-part “I” message (example)
  • Identify the behavior in a non-judgmental manner (When I see someone running in the room…)
  • Identify how you feel about the behavior (…I feel scared…)
  • Identify what it makes you want to do (…and it makes me want to help you practice walking.)
what is behavior
What is Behavior?
  • What you see and/or hear is behavior, not your subjective interpretation of the child’s “attitude”
  • Attitude can not be seen or heard (Attitude is an internal process.)
  • Is it really possible to “misbehave”?
  • How is it possible to miss having a way of being?
  • Answer: It’s not!
defining problem behavior
Defining Problem Behavior
  • Adult-centered definitions of “misbehavior”
    • focus on effect child’s behavior has on the adult
  • Child-centered definitions of “unacceptable behavior”
    • focus on appropriateness or inappropriateness of action

(Identifying behavior as Inappropriate in a specific situation does not suggest fault or blame)

the d anger in anger
The Danger in Anger
  • Anger is not a feeling
  • Anger is only the tip of an emotional iceberg
  • Anger is a reaction to suppressed feeling
  • Anger management is a question of identifying the uncomfortable feeling beneath the anger that is being covered up by denial
  • Anger is the manifestation of suppressed fear, hurt, embarrassment…
  • Persistence is more effective than anger
    • When you feel angry, identify your underlying feelings
    • Were you feeling startled, disappointed, worried, frightened, frustrated?
  • Express feelings other than anger
    • surprise, disbelief, sadness, concern, worry, apprehension, fear, distress
reactions to power
Reactions to Power
  • Encourage cooperation not submission
abandon the authoritarianism vs permissiveness model
Abandon the Authoritarianism vs. Permissiveness Model
  • Embrace an alternative to the see-saw of dictatorship vs. anarchy
  • Utilize the democracy model as an alternative
  • With the democratic alternative you are encouraging win-win problem-solving
understanding the theory behind using positive guidance to effect behavior change
Understanding the theory behind using positive guidance to effect behavior change
  • All learning takes place within the context of a learner’s previous knowledge and values
  • To increase the chance of compliance without damage to self-esteem, any expected change should be presented in such a way that the child does not feel threatened
handling resistance to change
Handling Resistance to Change
  • Shift gears back and forth between confronting the child in a non-blaming manner and communicating empathic understanding when the child shows resistance
  • Confront------demonstrate empathy-----re-confront----demonstrate empathy---re-confront--demonstrate empathy-re-confront…until all resistance is gone
be aware of your behavior
Be Aware of Your Behavior
  • Using power to control behavior brings a “high risk” of experiencing resistance
  • Threatening to use power is worse
  • Shifting gears between non-blaming confrontation and communicating empathic understanding of the resistance has win-win potential
  • Being a role-model for socially competent behavior is always the best approach to behavior management
modifying the environment is often all it takes
Modifying the Environment is often all it takes
  • Add to the environment

(Provide more stimulation/enrichment)

  • Simplify the environment

(Make positive choices clearer)

  • Rearrange the environment

(Simplify the room arrangement to facilitate cooperation)

  • Anticipate problems

(Remove things that might cause problems)

rules for responsible human behavior
Rules for Responsible Human Behavior

Guide children to:

  • Treat others the way you want to be treated

Be Kind (cooperative)

  • Take only reasonable risks

Be Safe (confident)

  • Take care of the environment

Be Neat (competent)

what are the behaviors that exemplify positive adult role models
What are the behaviors that exemplify positive adult role models?
  • Treat everyone with dignity & respect at all times.
  • Rely on patience, persistence, & constructive interactions, rather than force, to modify behavior
  • Respond assertively to unacceptable behavior with gentle firmness
  • Use constructive problem-solving strategies to redirect unacceptable behavior
  • Plan & prepare developmentally appropriate activities for young children
discipline guidelines
Discipline Guidelines
  • Redirect
    • replace inappropriate behavior with more appropriate behavior
  • Be objective
    • respond with impartiality, neutrality, and open-mindedness
    • avoid a judgmental or negatively emotional response
unconditional caring and affection
Unconditional Caring and Affection
  • Give warmth and friendliness without qualification
  • Never withhold attention as a way of punishing inappropriate behavior
  • Assure child she is valued even if behavior must be stopped
  • Affirm the child
    • positive assertion of the child’s existence, significance and value as a person
effective guidance strategies
Effective Guidance Strategies
  • Do not attempt to change too much at once
  • Focus attention elsewhere to resolve mildly annoying behaviors
  • Use consistency and fairness to help children trust authority figures
  • Interrupt immediately behavior that is harmful or unfair
  • Intervene firmly but gently
positive guidance
Positive Guidance
  • Let child know you value her even if her behavior must be stopped
  • Help child understand why positive behavior is better
  • Help child identify possible consequences of actions
  • Allow child to deal with reasonable consequences
  • Create developmentally appropriate environment
  • Remove child from situations that cause misbehavior
  • Firmly redirect inappropriate behavior
  • Remember young children imitate our words and action
assertive guidance
Assertive Guidance
  • Make sure expectations are reasonable for children’s age and ability
  • Let children know exactly what you expect of them
  • Provide simple, consistently enforced guidelines
  • Help children consistently abide by rules
  • Children need consistency tempered by a reasonable level of flexibility
  • Enforcement of discipline must not hinge on your mood!
teach positive behavior
Teach Positive Behavior
  • Teach ground rules through role play and discussion
  • Provide repetition learning through appropriate books and songs
  • Identify inappropriate behaviors and engage children in problem solving
  • Developmentally appropriate problem-solving activities help children understand and remember
positive guidance guidelines
Positive Guidance Guidelines
  • You can prevent many behavior problems before they begin with careful planning
  • Your posture, movements, & gestures communicate (so - communicate wisely)
  • Children rely on non-verbal communication to interpret adult mood & expectations
  • You need to be aware of your nonverbal expressions when you are attempting to communicate with children
  • Match your nonverbal expressions to your verbal message
positive guidance guidelines continued
Positive Guidance Guidelines (continued)
  • If your nonverbal cues are too threatening, children will tend to resist your directives
  • If your requests are assertive, confident, respectful, & sound caring, children are more likely to comply quickly & willingly
  • The primary goal must be to facilitate the acceptance of personal responsibility for ones own actions
  • Your secondary goal should be to channel the expression of emotions through words
positive guidance guidelines continued33
Positive Guidance Guidelines (continued)
  • See the child separate from his/her behavior
  • Not being assertive and firm is just as damaging as as being punitive
  • Children need freedom within clearly identified limits
  • Freedom without limits is anarchy (It teaches insensitivity to others)
  • Positive guidance is a process of guiding children to become self-controlled, self-correcting, cooperative, & socially conscious persons
positive guidance guidelines continued34
Positive Guidance Guidelines(continued)
  • Sometimes you will need to rearrange the classroom to break “bad” habits
  • Behavior modification is the most humane & effective strategy for guiding children who have limited ability to reflect on their behavior & how it impacts on others
  • Don’t try to change too much at one time
  • Pick one behavior that is the most disruptive and focus on it – ignoring the rest until you have extinguished the 1st target behavior
positive guidance guidelines continued35
Positive Guidance Guidelines (continued)
  • Mildly annoying behavior should be ignored – redirect the child without drawing attention to the negative behavior
  • Be as consistently firm as necessary and at the same time as gentle as possible
  • Remember: Anger, threats, instilling guilt, & acting disgusted damages self-esteem and the process of children learning self-control
  • You should acknowledge & accept each child’s expression of negative feelings, but not dwell on them
positive guidance guidelines continued36
Positive Guidance Guidelines (continued)
  • Children need to know exactly what is expected of them
  • Enforcing guidelines consistently helps children learn to respect rules
  • Children are helped to remember & internalize rules through role playing, repetition, & discussion of rules at neutral times
  • Enforcing rules should NEVER hinge on your mood or coincidental circumstances
  • Consequences should be logical
  • Never punish – rather firmly redirect behavior in a positive direction
positive guidance guidelines continued37
Positive Guidance Guidelines (Continued)
  • All attention focused on a child should emphasize self-control & self-esteem building
  • To reinforce your directives give:
    • direct eye contact
    • position your body at the child’s level
    • use gentle, appropriate touch
  • Consistent, persistent “nudges” toward appropriate behavior is more effective than punishment & threats stated in anger
  • Express your honest feeling of disbelief, disappointment, frustration, or hurt rather than overpowering children with your anger when confronting them about unacceptable behavior
model pro social behavior to teach social competence
Model pro-social behavior to “teach” social competence
  • Young children do not come into this world equipped with the logical, cause & effect thinking skills to understand how to behave in a socially competent manner
  • Children adopt pro-social behavior only after experiencing it from nurturing adults
  • They learn to practice pro-social behavior from seeing it demonstrated by the adults around them
the key to avoiding behavior problems is prevention
The key to avoiding behavior problems is: Prevention
  • We let children know about how we expect them to “behave” by the signals we send them not only verbally but also non-verbally
  • We can prevent the majority of behavior problems by providing children with an environment that is tailored to their level of developmental readiness and plan activities that challenge their curiosity within specific, clearly identified behavior guidelines
things to remember about setting limits
Things to Remember about Setting Limits
  • Involve children in developing limits of classroom behavior (class rules)
  • Help children focus on tasks by using positive affirmations as verbal cues
  • Set clear limits / Be very specific (Example: “It’s time to put the ... Away!”)
  • Use concrete words & short sentences
  • Identify limits with a positive tone of voice
  • Limit the choices you offer at any one time
what not to do when setting limits
What not to do when setting limits
  • Avoid offering choices when children “really” don’t have a choice (When a child must comply, don’t ask: “Don’t you want to go to the library, now?”
  • Avoid giving more than one limit at a time
  • Avoid only talking about what kids shouldn’t do
  • Don’t be vague
  • Don’t set arbitrary or trivial limits
  • Avoid arguing about the limits
  • Avoid trying to “reason” with a child about limits
key issues for a pro social environment
Key Issues for a pro-social environment
  • Consistent & predictable routines help facilitate the development of self-control
  • First step toward shaping children’s behavior is setting a “good example”
  • Children imitating adult modeled behavior is an important & obvious tool for “teaching” pro-social behavior
how can i be patient nurturing consistent
How can I be patient, nurturing, & consistent?
  • The first step toward shaping children’s behavior in a positive direction is to set a good example
  • Modeling socially competent behavior is the key
  • Most of the worst behavior we observe in young children is merely instant-replay of what they have observed adults do
  • Example: “If you don’t stop hitting people, I’m going to spank you”.
what to do when a child s behavior is annoying
What to do when a child’s behavior is annoying
  • If a young child is overly loud & boisterous - focus on being soft-spoken & calm
  • If a young child is angry - model patience
  • If a young child is aggressive - model gentleness & kindness
  • If a young child is destructive - model respect for property
what is a developmentally appropriate way to respond to aggression
What is a developmentally appropriate way to respond to aggression?
  • Don’t overuse the word “NO”
  • Be positive & assertive rather than negative & adversarial
  • If you model appropriate language use for expressing feelings, over time, young children will learn how to express their feeling of anger & frustration with words
  • Rely on persistence and patience rather than force
  • Proceed gently, but firmly to redirect behavior
learning pro social behavior through imitation
Learning pro-social behavior through imitation
  • Early childhood is a particularly sensitive period for learning through imitation
  • Modeling entire sequences of behavior is important at this stage of development
  • Modeling is a powerful tool for teaching pro-social behavior
  • Adults miss a great many opportunities to have a profoundly positive influence on young children because they do not understand the impact that their actions can have on the developing mind
understanding the power of imitation
Understanding the power of imitation
  • Children learn considerable negative behavior from watching television
  • Rather than focusing attention on correcting unacceptable behavior, we need to look in the mirror & correct the behavior that is a poor role model for social competence
  • If our goal is to help children develop self-discipline & self-control, it would be best to demonstrate how to muster these admirable characteristics in ourselves -rather than tell kids how they should behave
how can i provide positive reinforcement to encourage behavior
How can I provide positive reinforcement to encourage behavior?
  • Praise can cause children to feel pressured to live up to unrealistic standards
  • Praise focuses a child’s attention on gaining external rewards
  • Recognition & encouragement are a healthy alternative to praise
  • Recognition & encouragement focus a child’s attention on intrinsic rewards, such as feelings of accomplishment, self-pride, enhanced sense of self-worth
  • Intrinsic motivation builds a child’s sense of empowerment & self-determination
example of the different between praise encouragement
Example of the different between praise & encouragement
  • Praise implies an objective value judgment
  • Example: “Your painting is beautiful.” If this kind of praise does not continue, a child may perceive that his value as a person is diminishing. A young child could easily assume that his/her value is directly tied to an ability to produce “beautiful” art work
  • Encouragement is very specific & focuses on behavior not product
  • Example: “I like the effort you put into your picture”. Neither the child nor the product is labeled good or bad
am i willing to enforce rules even if it would be easier to look the other way
Am I willing to enforce rules, even if it would be easier to look the other way?
  • Children want & need clear & firm guidelines for what is expected from them
  • They need help developing self-control
  • Permissiveness cultivates antisocial & selfish behavior
  • You must be consistent with enforcing rules
most effective tools for facilitating self control
Most effective tools for facilitating self-control
  • Modeling
  • Practicing
  • Children learn effective problem-solving skills by watching adults who are consistent at being a “good” example
  • The key:
    • Accurately interpret a problem
    • Clearly express your expectation
    • “Teach” effective problem-solving skills through modeling social competence
say what you mean mean what you say
Say what you mean. Mean what you say.
  • Ask a question only if the child really has a choice
    • “Would you like something to drink?”
  • State choices if child will be allowed to choose
    • “Would you rather have apple juice or milk.”
  • If something must happen, don’t discuss it
    • “You must take your medicine so your cough will get better."
how do children learn to be good listeners
How do children learn to be“good” listeners?
  • Children learn to listen attentively by experiencing being listened to as a regular part of their daily interactions with adults
  • Simply telling children to listen is not enough!
what are appropriate responses to requests for help
What are appropriate responses to requests for help?
  • Many requests for help may appear, on the surface, to be requests for action or information. However, they are really requests for attention
  • Instead of rushing to solve a child’s problem for them, it is best to initially respond to requests with non-judgmental reflective statements:

“It sounds like you feel…”

“In other words, you are saying…”

“What I think you are asking is…”

use positive instructions instead of negative commands
Negative Commands

“Don’t run”

“Don’t push”

“Quit yelling”

“Shut up”

“Be quiet”

“Stop that”

Positive Instructions

“Running is an outside activity. I walk inside.”

“It’s not like me to push Joe. I touch Joe gently.”

“I can’t hear Mary when you are yelling. I talk in a quiet & calm tone of voice”

“When you… I have difficulty…I need to have you…”

Use positive instructions instead of negative commands
using positive instructions instead of negative commands
Using positive instructions instead of negative commands
  • The goal of expressing expectations in the form of positive instructions is to redirect behavior in a positive direction
  • They will only “work” if you are consistent with applying them
  • The key factors are to keep the instructions: Simple, direct, concrete, respectful, honest, assertive, and expressed with optimism
  • The more consistent you are with being assertive, direct, & specific with your expectations, the more successful you will be in keeping children focused on changing their behavior
should children be forced to apologize
Should children be forced to apologize?
  • It is more appropriate to simply point out how the other child feels.
  • The topic of apologizing should be saved for a neutral time
punishment arbitrary consequence
Punishment(Arbitrary consequence)
  • To cause a child to undergo pain or loss as retribution or penalty for wrongdoing is called = punishment
  • Punishment is developmentally inappropriate during early childhood
  • The result of punishment: hurt and humiliation which leads to lowered self-esteem
forms of punishment
Forms of Punishment
  • Physically hurting, humiliating, or embarrassing a child
  • Withholding attention (ignoring, avoiding eye contact, or not speaking)
  • Lecturing, nagging, yelling or name-calling
  • Arbitrarily taking away privileges unrelated to the unacceptable act
the risks of using punishment
The risks of using punishment
  • Known to increase children’s aggression
  • Slows children’s moral development
  • May risk overall mental health of children
logical natural consequences
Logical & Natural Consequences
  • Natural Consequence: I forget to water the plantthe plant dies
  • Logical Consequence: I am regularly late to workI lose my job
  • If I want to achieve desired goals and avoid undesired results, I will be responsive to avoiding negative consequences
logical consequence
Logical consequence


  • Inappropriate behavior is motivated by the need to gain attention, experience power, exact revenge, or display helplessness
  • Inappropriate behavior is the result of poor choices regarding how to satisfy needs
logical consequence continued
Logical consequence (continued)


  • Help students identify motives behind their behavior
  • Help students learn to satisfy their motives legitimately
  • Let students suffer the logical consequences of their behavior
  • When student behavior is unacceptable, two alternatives are offered to choose from to correct the problem
logical consequence continued64
Logical consequence (continued)


  • It promotes autonomy and self-regulation
  • It eliminates discipline problems
  • It helps students become more self-directed
the difference between punishment positive guidance
The Difference between Punishment & Positive Guidance
  • Lowers self-esteem
  • Humiliates
  • Degrades
  • Hurts
  • Angers
  • Frustrates
  • Stifles efforts
  • Embarrasses
  • Discourages
  • Belittles
  • Denies affection


the difference between punishment positive guidance continued
The Difference between Punishment & Positive Guidance (Continued)
  • Builds self-esteem
  • Respects
  • Gives hope
  • Models social competence
  • Gives confidence
  • Encourages
  • Facilitates trust
  • Gives emotional support

Positive Guidance

rehearsing transitions
Rehearsing transitions
  • Before a transition it is best to review with children what will happen
  • Explain the sequence of activities or events
  • Clearly state what will happen next
  • Giving kids cues about what is coming helps them to feel more secure when adapting to the change
  • Use focus points to help kids keep on track: pictures, signs, or props that remind kids what to do
  • Novelty engages children’s interest & encourages them to stay focused on moving through transitions (use musical or rhythm activities, hand lotion, bubbles, props for them to hold)
be consistent
Be Consistent!
  • Most teachers plan their classroom schedule, but may not have considered how important it is to relay the plan clearly to the children
  • Children need predictability!
  • Predictability helps children adjust to change and move more easily through transitions
  • Create transition plans that facilitate children learning how to function more independently
key to successful discipline
Key to Successful Discipline

The basic elements of successful child guidance are:

  • Have a limited number of clear, simple, yet firm rules for classroom behavior
  • Adults must model the appropriate behaviors
  • Children are shown what to expect and what behavior is expected from them
what you need to know as an adult role model
What you need to know asan adult role-model
  • Develop a basis for trust and respect with simple, consistently enforced guidelines
  • Remember that adult anger triggers acting-out behavior and models aggression and hostility
  • Prevent many behavior problems through planning ahead
  • What counts most is not what you do, but how you do it!
meeting adult needs
Meeting Adult Needs
  • Adults who recognize their own needs and imperfections are more effective in guiding children than adults with limited introspection