Strategies for positive guidance

Changes and regressions in behavioural patterns are integral to the learning process in early childhood. It is not enough for adults working with children to be knowledgeable about each child’s learning abilities and progress towards goals. In order to treat every child with respect and dignity, adults must be aware of children’s strengths, understand that they have reasons for their actions, and give each child regular and honest feedback that is positive.

Define children in terms of their strengths.

Ask - what is a positive thing I can honestly say about this child? This may mean selecting a positive rather than a negative behaviour as a focus. Alternatively, some behaviours which have a negative connotation may be able to be reassessed as positive attributes and developed as strengths.

For example:

  • Has leadership qualities, can be assertive not bossy 
  • Likes 'rough and tumble' play, is very energetic not aggressive
  • Takes time to observe before acting not unfriendly 
  • Independent, sets own objectives not uncooperative 
  • Is able to ask for reassurance (verbally or non-verbally) not clingy

Ensure that each child receives positive feedback each day for some thing/s

Structure the programme to enhance children’s well-being and sense of belonging through such things as provision of energetic outdoor play, use of music and rhythms, calm and pleasant routines for meals and rest times. Give praise and encouragement when the child responds, however small or
brief the incident.

Provide understanding and support in adversity

Recognise and help children cope with adversity. When things go wrong a child may be angry and upset that their work has been destroyed, that they cannot play at a particular activity or be accepted into a group. Do not accept the child’s view of this as a tragedy.

  • Offer alternatives or provide support for the child to try again. Children need to be helped to accept as a matter of fact that each day will include both change and predicability. Activities are means to a goal, not goals in themselves.
  • If a child is fearful or upset at a situation such as a best friend leaving for school, sickness in the family, a new environment or an unfamiliar staff member, acknowledge the child’s feelings openly.

Assure the child that your support is there. Be reassuring that things will feel better in time.

Focus on what the child could achieve.

children behave in the way they do for a reason. Respect the fact that there is a reason even when the behaviour itself may not be acceptable. Take the approach of ‘how can this child do things better?’ ‘What goal is this child wanting to reach?’ Avoid attaching blame.

For older children, help the child to think about the situation and to generate solutions. This requires considerable skill and time on the part of the teacher but the process is an integral part of the early childhood curriculum, ‘to learn strategies for thinking and reasoning’.

Last updated: 7 July 2009