Friday, June 29, 2012

Behavior Tools: The Foundation

Building Positive Relationships 

I believe positive relationships are the foundation of teaching. If a child feels safe, respected, and valued, they will be much more receptive to learning than if they feel criticized, fearful, or ashamed. Since behavior is something that can be learned, it makes sense that kids will be more receptive to learning positive behavior in a positive environment. 

For me, building a positive relationship with kids comes down to two big ideas.
  • First, it is about making trust and respect a two-way street. In other words, if we want kids to respect us as adults, we need to give them respect in return. When we give them our trust and respect, they feel more empowered to make good choices on their own. Likewise, as we earn their trust and respect, they are more likely to respond to our teaching and correction because they believe in us and what we have to say.
  • Second, it is about unconditional care and love. The fact that we care about them or love them should not be dependent upon their behavior, and having a positive relationship helps them to feel secure in that knowledge.   
This may seem like an obvious or simple thing to do with the kids you work with or parent...but sometimes when a certain kid has been "pushing your buttons" all day or is constantly getting into "trouble," it can be really hard to maintain positive interactions with them. And yet, those are the kids who need those positive interactions the most. In fact, the more a kid is misbehaving, the more time and effort should be put into building that relationship with positive experiences and interactions. 
Here are just a few ideas for ways to foster a positive relationship with kids:

  1. Make and take opportunities to spend time together during the day, even if it is just for a few minutes. 
  2. Learn about their interests, dislikes, family, and feelings. 
  3. Use their name when talking to them. 
  4. Express happiness to see them and be with them each day.
  5. Give sincere compliments about things unique to them.
  6. Notice when they are doing positive things, and give them specific feedback. 
  7. Give them opportunities to make choices to show your trust and respect for them. 
  8. Help them take ownership for their success and accomplishment. (So often I get students who look to me for approval- "Do you like my picture?" and I will turn it back to them by saying "Do you like it? That is what matters most.")  
  9. Show empathy and understanding when they make a mistake or have a difficult time before jumping into correcting and teaching. 
  10. Always listen carefully and patiently when they try to express their thoughts and feelings to you- especially in situations of misbehavior. Recognize and validate their experiences, even if it doesn't change the consequence or outcome of the situation. 

 Behavior Tools is a series about understanding and managing behavior with young children. The more we understand children and their behavior, the better we are able to teach them how to make good choices and build a solid foundation of self worth and confidence. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to helping a child learn appropriate behavior, which is why we need a lot of different tools and strategies to draw upon when we work with young children. 

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