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7.8: The Behavioral Side of Curriculum

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    Rather than thinking of children’s behavior as occurring separately from everything else that goes on in the classroom, it can be helpful to recognize that it is a part of everything else. As we plan interactions and experiences that are meaningful, we take into account a variety of factors that affect behavior. Part of every plan should be an understanding of who children are and intentionally planning for them. Just as with other skills that children are learning, they are learning to control their bodies, use their words, self-regulate, wait their turn, be patient, and a host of other social and emotional skills the will help them be able to manage themselves in social situations. Learning these life skills is no different from any other concept they will learn by exploring, repeated exposure, and having it make sense to them. As will other concepts, they need teachers who develop relationships with them, focus on what they CAN do, and maintain a positive attitude.

    There is no magic approach to helping children learn to manage their behavior and no secret book with all of the answers. Instead, there are a variety of factors to consider and approaches to try to guide behaviors in the ways we prefer. This will be expanded upon in your future CDE course work, so what follows here is an abridged version of considerations as we plan for the children in our programs.

    As early childhood professionals, we have an ethical obligation to understand how behavior is affected by the following factors and to plan accordingly. Just as we started Chapter 4 (Observation and Assessment) with looking at the “why”, understanding why a child might be behaving in a certain way can assist in planning appropriately:

    The “whys” of children’s behavior teachers should consider:

    • Development – what to expect at various ages and stage for the “whole” child
    • Environment – the physical space, routine and interpersonal tone
    • Family & Cultural Influences – influences and variations in expectations
    • Temperament – individual personality styles, approaches, and ways of interpreting events
    • Motivation – purpose (communicating, relating, attention, control, revenge, inadequacy, fear of failure,…)

    Often teachers will use a web like the one previously described to consider the “why” of a behavior. They place the behavior in the center and then web out the various factors to consider.


    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Teachers should examine the “why” behind a behavior


    Pause to Reflect

    How might you use the information above when planning interactions and experiences for children?

    Once we have an understanding of the “whys” of behavior, we can plan interactions that foster the behavior we desire. We will introduce you to guidance techniques in your future coursework and these techniques are covered in depth in CDE 227, Child Guidance. Here we have highlighted the following Interactive Strategies to consider.

    Useful teacher interactions when planning for children’s behavior (in addition to the interactive considerations posed earlier):

    • Consistency
    • Clarity
    • Realistic limits and expectations
    • Calmness
    • Focus on the behavior, not the child
    • Focus on what the child can do and is doing appropriately
    • Positive direction (for example instead of “don’t run” say “use walking feet”)
    • Reflection and logic rather than immediate response and emotion

    Some strategies to try include:

    • Ignore – can be effective if a behavior is annoying rather than dangerous.

    “If you choose to continue using a whining voice I will choose not to listen. As soon as you use your talking voice, I would like to hear what you have to say”

    • Redirect – directing the child to a more positive way of using that behavior.

    “Inside we use our walking feet, when you go outside you can run” or “We don’t throw things at other people, if you would like to throw let’s find the target and beanbags”

    • Active Listening to understand – validating what the child is saying.

    “I hear you saying that you want a turn, you sound very sad” or “you worked very hard on that block structure and you are angry it got knocked over”

    • Give Choices – state what needs to be done and then give 2 options for how it can be done.

    “It’s time to clean up now, will you clean up the paintbrushes or the paints first?” or “It’s time to come inside now, do you want to come in like a mouse or a dinosaur?”

    • Logical Consequences – as children behave in certain ways (both “positively” and “negatively”) consequences will logically happen.

    “If you talk to your friends in that tone, they may continue not to want to play with you. If you want to play with them, what can you do differently?” or “We are having snack now; if you choose not to eat you will probably be very hungry by lunchtime”

    • Problem Solving/Conflict Resolution – helping children to solve their own issues with support as needed.

    “What can you do about that?” or “How might you solve that problem” or “it sounds like you both want to play with the same toy, I wonder how you will work that out?”

    • Short removal with reflection and return – taking a moment to leave a situation to gain composure and return more successfully.

    “It seems to be hard for you to keep the sand in the sandbox right now. I’m going to ask you to leave the sandbox for a few moments and think about how you can be respectful to the others that are sharing this space with you. Where will you go to think?”)A very brief time later) “what can you do differently next time you enter the sandbox? Great, would you like to try out your solution? Come on back and show me”. “You did it!” [79]


    Pause to Reflect

    How might you use the information above when planning interactions and experiences for children? What makes sense? What feels comfortable to try?

    This page titled 7.8: The Behavioral Side of Curriculum is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Cindy Stephens, Gina Peterson, Sharon Eyrich, & Jennifer Paris (College of the Canyons) .