But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus died for us. Even though we didn’t do what we “should” do. God knew it was what we ultimately needed.
Doing something for someone for what they need instead of what they deserve, that’s a tricky expectation. It is a hard (even impossible) example to follow all the time. However, as teachers and parents we need to keep this example close to our hearts.
We often face behaviors that feel intentionally defiant or hurtful. Sometimes we face those same behaviors multiple time a
day hour. It is easy to become frustrated or overwhelmed. It is easy to react without taking time to understand what the child is truly crying out for.
Becky Bailey, the author of Conscious Discipline, poses the idea that children (actually she include adults too) are all acting with behaviors that have a positive goal- even oppositional behaviors. This idea is one of the 7 basic skills in the Conscious Discipline program. You can read more about her ideas by clicking the photo.
Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs, a well-known psychologist and educator, researched the “whys” of children’s misbehavior. His work promotes the idea that students misbehave to achieve self-serving goals. These usually include: getting attention, seeking power, taking revenge and avoiding failure. (Advantage press newsletter)
He decided to study how adults’ reactions affect behaviors. I found these interesting.
“No matter what the reason is for a student’s misbehavior, we are forced to respond. Some responses produce better results than others. Below is a list of .. positive …. responses by educators.”
Responses that tend to get positive results include:
- Describing the unacceptable behavior to the student
- Pointing out how his behavior negatively impacts him and others
- Talking with the students about what could have been a better behavior choice and why
- Asking the student to write a goal that will help him improve his actions
- Showing confidence in the student that his behavior goals are achievable
- Positively reinforcing behavior that relates to student goals
Notice these all give instructional, positive consequences rather than punitive.
Hitting is a negative behavior we often see at preschool. As adults we may want to attach adult motives or labels: He’s a bully. Why is he being so mean? However, we strongly believe there are no bullies at preschool.
There are many underlying reasons a child may hit. Young children are just trying to make sense of the world and how they should react to it. As Ms. Leslie said, “Their motives are pure.” As teachers (and parents) we need to take time to understand their motives and what the child truly needs (rather than evaluate only what his behavior deserves.) Some options may be:
- Trying to play with another child (and believe me this happens often); children are just learning how to interact with others – We need to give the child words to ask to play. We also need to give the “victim” the words to say he or she doesn’t like that
- Wanting a toy or turn – We need to, again, give the child the words to use. We may also give alternative options. Perhaps later we do some pretend play acting out someone asking for a toy
- Feeling frustrated – We need to give the child comfort, acceptance and a chance to calm their emotions. This is a time we would use a calming technique. You can read about those here:
- Acting out a superhero scene – We need to give the child an appropriate time (outside) and way to do this (you pretend by hitting the air only.)
- Feeling overwhelmed and out of control – We need to give this child time and space (the safe place) to gather composure. Sometimes this means the child takes a walk with a teacher or myself as we talk and try to help the child understand his or her emotions and better ways to handle them.
As you can see, there are many reasons a child may hit or act out. If we respond to them all with the same punitive reaction such as a time-out we are most likely not giving the child what he or she truly needs. I challenge both you and myself to take the time to look past what we might feel a child deserves and give each child what he needs.