Friday, July 6, 2012

Behavior Tools: The Toolbox

Building Your Toolbox

Building positive relationships is the foundation for teaching, and should be applied with every child, regardless of their behavioral abilities. Beyond that, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching appropriate behavior.

That is why you need a behavior toolbox. 
You need to have a lot of different kinds of tools and strategies to use with children, because every child is different, and their needs and abilities will change as they continue to grow. That is one reason that building a positive relationship with kids is so important, because knowing their personality, interests, and needs can help you to decide what tools will be most effective and necessary for them. 

There are basically 3 types of tools that you will need. Just like a hammer serves a different purpose than chainsaw, these tools have different functions but all of them have the goal of helping kids to be successful.

1. Preventative Tools
These are the tools that help to prevent misbehavior. These tools are basically the things that adults have control over, such as environment and scheduling. Most kids will be very responsive to these kinds of strategies. 

2. Supportive Tools
These are the teaching tools. We cannot expect kids just to know how to behave in different settings or how to manage their emotions. We also can't expect that just telling them what to do or punishing them is going to teach them the appropriate behavior. For example, spanking a child may temporarily stop the behavior from occurring, but it does not teach them how to behave correctly. (Spanking also teaches a child to do things out of fear, rather than to do things because it makes them feel good inside...but that is a whole different can of worms.) We need to explicitly teach children how to follow our expectations and give them opportunities to practice being successful within those guidelines. 

3. Corrective Tools
In my opinion, these tools build upon supportive tools because they continue to teach appropriate behavior, while also providing consistent consequences. In the education world, we call these tools interventions, and they are really only necessary for a small percentage of the children we work with. These tools are used in response to consistent misbehavior, after preventative and supportive tools have been put in place. 

Learning about these different kinds of tools was empowering to me as a teacher, because it helped me to realize that while I ultimately have no control over how a student chooses to behave, there are many things that I can control and change to help that child be more successful. I am always anxious to learn more about child behavior and teaching strategies, because it gives me more tools to draw upon as I work in an environment that is often unpredictable due to the diversity of students I encounter. In later posts I will discuss some of the individual strategies that I have found to be successful within these categories.

**One last additional note: As a teacher or a parent, you have to find tools that work for you! This past year, I began the year convinced that I wanted to use a certain strategy, because I watched another teacher use it so successfully. But when I tried to put it into practice, I just could not make it work and it bombed because it did not feel authentic to me. Just like children are going to be more receptive to strategies that fit their needs, we are also going to be more effective with using strategies that fit with our abilities, personalities and belief systems.

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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