Positive Behavioral Supports for Young Children
Children need to know that they are loved and accepted. Even very young children develop an understanding about how caregivers feel about them. They listen to what caregivers say to them and to others about them, and they observe how caregivers behave. Children who feel secure in their environment and in their relationships with caregivers are less likely to misbehave as a way of getting inappropriate attention.
When a child misbehaves, caregivers are likely to focus on the child and the child's behavior in an effort to stop the inappropriate behavior and prevent its recurrence. It may be difficult for the caregiver to understand how the environment may be a contributing factor to the misbehavior. Environmental variables that may contribute to the misbehavior include the following:
- the behavior of the caregiver (e.g., is misbehavior reinforced?);
- the behavior of others in the environment (e.g., how do peers respond to the child's behavior?); and
- factors relating to the environment in which the child exhibits the behavior (e.g., physical environment, classroom curriculum, cognitive and social demands).
We will look at three suggestions as to how caregivers can demonstrate to young children that they are loved, liked, and accepted.
Tell Students You Like Them
A caregiver cannot assume that children know someone likes them-you must tell them! Caregivers should get into the daily habit of telling children they are liked, especially after appropriate behavior. Some caregivers may have a very difficult time saying "I like you" or expressing positive feelings to the children placed in their care. If expressing feelings in this way becomes part of the daily routine, however, caregivers will find it becomes easier to do so. Children should leave their educational setting saying, "My teacher really likes me!"
Families who communicate their feelings about each other when children are young will have an easier time expressing feelings when the children become adolescents. Thus, efforts to communicate affection when children are young provide an investment for future parent-child communication patterns.
Educators can help children establish healthy attitudes about expressing their feelings in the classroom. Talking about feelings and giving children opportunities to talk about how they feel teach children that their feelings are real and part of being a person. They also give educators a chance to teach children how to identify, be sensitive to, and respect the feelings of others. These lessons will help provide a solid foundation for the development of appropriate social skills.
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