What is Positive Behavior?
In some ways, the line between positive and negative behavior exists in the eye of the beholder. Your value system, which stems from your family and cultural background as well as your own life experiences, will determine what you believe to be positive behavior. Your feelings about yourself and life in general will also color your perceptions. When adults feel positive about themselves, they are better able to understand and accept children's behavior.
This article is based on the premise that positive behaviors are those which help children move along toward the goal of becoming well-adjusted, fully functioning adults. In other words, behavior that is typical of a particular stage of development, that paves the way for the next stage, is positive. Positive behavior is not, therefore, the same thing as compliance with adult wishes, especially if those adult wishes reflect a lack of knowledge of children's development.
Some positive behavior can appear downright negative! T. Berry Brazelton (1992), a renowned pediatrician, argues that there are predictable times in the lives of all children when their behavior “falls apart”: when they seem to move backward in development in ways that perplex and dismay their parents and caregivers. These times invariably signal a rapid spurt of physical, cognitive, or socioemotional growth. An example might be the child on the verge of walking, whose frustration at being left behind evokes a sudden change in disposition and screams of rage. Brazelton views these periods, not as crisis points, but rather as “touchpoints,” unparalleled opportunities for understanding and supporting development, if we anticipate them positively and avoid becoming locked in power struggles.
By studying child development and carefully observing the behavior of many children, you can learn to adjust your expectations so that the behavior you expect is within the bounds of possibility for children to achieve. By observing the behavior of a particular child over time, you can begin to understand what particular behaviors mean for that child. You may begin to see how behavior that seemed irritating to you actually serves a positive function for a child.
Focusing on positive behavior places negative behavior in better perspective and develops a more accurate impression of the whole child. It allows you to emphasize strengths and help children overcome weaknesses. Early childhood educators with heightened awareness of positive behaviors will set the stage so that those behaviors can occur, and will respond in ways that make these acts occur more often. In other words, they will use techniques of indirect and direct guidance.
© ______ 2009, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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