What is Positive Behavior? (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010


Of course, there's more to toddler behavior than “No!” One positive behavior is that toddlers explore on their own. Toddlers want to use the tricycle, though they may walk it along instead of pedaling it. They like to walk on a balance beam, a curb, or a wall, or something else a few inches from the ground, perhaps holding onto an adult's hand.

Sometimes, happiness is climbing up on high places from which they may be worried about getting down. They will look and feel like “king of the mountain” and cause parents to scurry to the rescue lest they tumble down.

Try visualizing yourself as a toddler to understand the pleasures of toddler life. For example, happiness is getting into things and poking your fingers into things. A cardboard carton from the grocery store makes a toy that you can play with for days—in and out, out and in, sitting down, rising up—a rhythm of exploration. You poke at Grandma's toe through her open-toed shoe and could just as well poke around the electric cord if someone didn't watch out for you.

Happiness is Julia picking up rocks on a walk and saying, “One for my daddy, one for my mommy, one for both of them.”

Happiness is having people around who realize how hard it is for toddlers to change their minds. For instance, after they've decided they want to eat a peanut butter sandwich, it is really hard to have to settle for a jelly sandwich.

Happiness is singing the song Eency Weency Spider with your teacher, then singing it at home for mommy and daddy and being asked in amazement, “Where did you learn that?” Also, happiness is bringing home a drawing of pretty squiggles and having daddy say, “Matt, this looks like writing. Look, dear, at the writing Matt did today. Good, Matt.”

Happiness is eating your dinner from your pretty Peter Rabbit dish, getting your fingers and face sticky, and not having anyone care about the mess.

Happiness is being able to ask for help or for something you need, like saying, “Water. Kim, water.” Or when mother asks, “Do you want your coat on?” being able to say, “Coat on.”

After toddlers turn two and become aware of the toilet, they like handling this alone. Sometimes for fun they sit backward on the toilet so they can hold on to the lid. They like surprising their teacher by going to the bathroom all alone without a reminder, and remembering to wash their hands afterward. They like the teacher's individual comments complimenting them for doing the task alone.

Toddlers really anticipate going outdoors. One teacher showed her charges how to put on their coats a magic way, by laying them front side up on the floor, collars at the children's feet. The children put their arms into the sleeves and flipped the coats over their heads and, like magic, the coats were on and ready to be zipped up. “I did it!” each shouted happily one after another as they succeeded at this task.

Three- to Six-Year-Olds

For a three- to six-year-old, action is a positive behavior, the key to healthy development, the sign that the child is growing. Physical action means continuous running, climbing, crawling, and hopping. Young children sit still only if it is their decision, and that is why it is preferable to let children choose their activities. They generally know best what their body needs next. If they decide to look at a book or do a painting, their concentration can be quite intense.

Pretend that you are a three- to six-year-old now. Positive behavior is laughing after recovering from the shock of having a turtle put in your face by a teasing boy. Positive behavior is taunting when your best friend tries to hit you with paperwads, “Missed me! You missed me! Now you've gotta kiss me!” Positive behavior is pretending about a big banner seen across the street, “Yeh! It's a big net and it is winding around us. It's got us! We can't get away!” and having your friends pretend to be caught in the struggle and laugh with you.

Positive behavior is singing into the stethoscope and finding out whether you can hear yourself. Positive behavior is making skis out of the hollow wooden ramps from the block corner, putting your feet in, and walking, and having your buddies laugh at the new discovery that they hadn't seen before. Positive behavior is wanting to throw a rope over a tree limb, then having your friend hold a stool for you while you get high enough to succeed. Positive behavior is hanging by your knees on the jungle gym and having your friend say, “I didn't know you could do that!”

Positive behavior is playing lotto and knowing which large card has the picture that is turned up on the small card. Positive behavior is feeling big enough to say “Bye” to Mom or Dad and joining other children at play. Positive behavior is wrestling with your friend in the grass and knowing you can hold your own and that your friend won't really hurt you. Positive behavior is feeling relieved that Mom finally bought you some blue jeans like the ones worn by the older boys in the school. Positive behavior is being glad when Daddy surprises you by stopping by the school to visit for a while and coping with sad feelings when he leaves. Positive behavior is doing your job at clean-up time and having the teacher say, “Thank you. We really worked together on clean up today!”

Talking and listening are positive behaviors, although for young children, talking is often more interesting than listening. You will frequently hear conversations that sound like two interviews run together on the tape recorder with both children talking and neither listening.

Talking, getting your ideas across and telling someone how you feel, is a positive behavior. One child whispers to another, “You're my friend,” or shouts, “No! no!” when someone takes a toy. Talking is asking for information, “Why do I have to take a nap?” It's telling the teacher important news before someone else does—“I have a new baby sister!” Talking is telling a best friend, “I'm going to take you and Carlos to the rodeo this night.” Talking and having someone to listen, to talk back, and not to say “shut up” are positive interactions for three- to five-year-olds.

Positive behavior is Clair painting a picture for each of her brothers, or Jeremiah taking a cookie home to his brother, “'Cause he doesn't have any cookies.” Positive behavior is Lakeisha tying Sondra's shoes when she didn't have any of her own to tie. And positive behavior is Keith swinging alone chanting

Swing, swing
My swing is swinging
Swing, swing
I'm making it go.

All children's behavior has meaning, and the adult's task is to search for that meaning. What do the things children do tell you about them? You can't draw conclusions from one or two incidents but must watch children over a period of time. When you sit down and reflect on the day's events after school, or at home after the children are safely tucked in each day, ask yourself “What positive behavior did I observe today?” Then you can analyze what you did to help or hinder what happened. These can be lessons for the future.

Of course, problems should not be ignored. Apparent problems may be positive behavior for some children. For example, you might have children who are quiet and withdrawn who then gradually grow to trust you and themselves and begin to stretch and strain the rules. These may be problems for you, but for those children the actions signify growth. What do you do? Certainly, don't try to control their behavior and push them back into their shells! Ignore them for a while unless someone's going to get hurt, because these children may be working through a problem through acts of self-expression. The teacher's goal is to tailor the guidance to children's individual needs. Within a short time, these children will likely be willing to follow the rules again.

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