Supporting Preschool Behavior Management [With Behavioral Chart]

Challenging behavior is a part of everyday life in early childhood education and there is always one child who can be referred to as the “difficult child.” Learning to better understand the children who typically stir up trouble within the classroom can be a full-time job, so knowing where to start especially when working with preschoolers is a very important key to help with behavioral regulation. HiMama is here to help! Below are some lists, a behavior chart, and pointers on setting up for a successful transition.

What are challenging behaviors❓

Challenging behaviors can be displaced in a variety of ways: 

  • Property destruction 
  • Aggression to self or others
  • Biting
  • Pica (eating inedible things) 
  • Oppositional behavior – avoiding tasks, refusal to comply

There are many different types of behaviors and are not limited to the list above but also can include tantrums, flipping to the ground, yelling/screaming, and running away. As teachers, we are taught to observe and reflect on each child, followed by preparing activities to help them grow and develop. When it comes to helping a child manage their emotions and behaviors, we know there is always a deeper cause or trigger. 

These types of behaviors happen for a reason and typically it is to “get” something or “get away” from something, or they are bored.  Most children use negative behavior to seek attention, and if they are seeking attention in a negative way they tend to learn that they can apply this in different situations. When a preschooler wants to get away from something, typically it is because of a traumatic event and they are seeking a safe place. A child tends to find trouble when they are bored and needing a challenge.  

Dealing with preschoolers, and challenging behaviors is no easy task, take a moment to breathe, remember that you are there to help the child, and you will make an impact on their life if you don’t help them change or challenge the behavior. 

“ Remember: everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. 9 times our of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry. It will break your heart!” – Annette Breaux

What can I do to change these behaviors?🤔

When I was working in the preschool classroom with several challenging behaviors, I came across a fun fact that it takes 28 days to change a behavior. I thought I didn’t sign up for this! Well, actually I did. I learned more about myself when learning how to help a child change and manage their behavior and because of it all, I created new bonds with the child and their families.  This does not change overnight and takes some planning, as well as teamwork.

Step 1: 

  • Communicating with your classroom team: Let them know what is happening and what you’ve experienced. 
  • Agree to start documenting the behavior: Decide on a way you want to measure how often the behavior is happening and what is happening BEFORE it. This can be done with anecdotal notes, pictures, or in this behavioral chart
  • Observe for a week or two, try to recognize a pattern

Step 2:

  • Communicate with your director about what is happening. Describe the problem and talk them through what you and your team have observed through your documentation

Step 3:

  • Start a very open and safe conversation with the parents/guardians – Addressing challenging behaviors that start at home is never easy, but take time to listen to the parent’s concerns. 
  • Express what you have been observing and ask if this is something that has been happening at home, when, and how often?

Making a positive behavior plan 😊

It’s time to start making change, and seeking any additional support from an experienced and certified teacher could be very beneficial. The idea behind a positive behavior plan is to reinforce the desired behavior by showing the child how to be more effective in communicating their needs. When you create a plan, include everyone who is directly involved in the plan, this can be other teachers/team members, and parents.

What is generally in a positive behavior plan: 

  • Define the behavior that you are targeting to change
  • Define the new behavior that you want 
  • Define how you are going to reinforce the child when they do that desired behavior
  • Define how you are going to stop/avoid reinforcing the behavior you want to stop 
  • Set a timeline 
  • Decide on how you will observe and measure for success
  • Create a document  to hold both the center and parents accountable for making a change

There are a couple of things you also want to keep in mind when creating your plan so you can be successful

  • Be consistent! Everyone on the team needs to be on the same page
  • Reinforce desired behavior immediately with real praise
  • Follow through, no matter what! 
  • Check with the team on progress and where there have been roadblocks
  • RECORD everything

COVID-19 and challenging behaviors 🩺

Working with challenging behavior on a regular day isn’t easy let alone adding the COVID-19 pandemic on top of it. Take a deep breath! WE are all in this together and going through the experience at the same time. This is a traumatic event for people everywhere and children may be acting out because of this experience. Control what is in your control and remember you are a hero through all of this. 

Celebrate the short term wins for long-term success 🥇

What does it look like? Success is that you and your team are doing great! The challenging behavior is reduced or gone. You should always keep in mind that your child is moving on and learning more with age and they are going to be okay. And really, that’s it! When you address challenging behaviors at an early age will help set them up for a more inclusive life as an adult. Challenging behaviors are, well, challenging! The behavior does not define the child and they need all the support and care they can get!

Resources to check out! 👋If you find you are in need of some fresh activities, check out HiMama’s Daycare activities


Written by Steven Bonnay

Updated by Ria Simon

The HiMama child care app helps to streamline your digital parent communications. Book a consultation with us today to learn how we can support your child care center during this time.

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