Stay Calm when dealing with challenging behaviors. Using a direct, even tone with a child will help to keep you calm as well as calm the child down and help you to respectfully deal with the situation.
Circle Time in the morning is a great tool to help the teacher and the children get the day started. You can use circle time as a tool to point certain children in the direction of play you may feel will help them to be most productive. You can use circle time to stretch or sing to get your more active children a chance to get some of their energy out. Circle time is a good focusing and listening tool. I often use it to introduce new materials and procedures for the classroom.
Limit transitions and make them fun. Transitions tend to be a major factor in challenging behavior. They can be very stressful for some children. When there are major transitions such as cleaning up and going from inside to outside, calling all the children to a rug and having them walk to the door like an animal of their choice can be a fun way to get from one place to another. Some children need something in their hands during a transition. Allow those children to grab their hat or special toy first before the transition or have something ready for them to carry outside or inside. Sometimes a quick group time with finger puppets for everyone can do the trick too. When the teacher calls their name they can put their puppet in a basket by the door on their way outside. Making transitions fun and light can definitely help decrease challenging behaviors.
Have consistent expectations for all children. Discuss expectations with parents and make sure you are all on the same page. Explain to the children what will be happening throughout the day and your expectations for them. Make sure they have a clear understanding of all the routines and procedures and their role in each.
Examine your environment. Look at the play space with a critical eye and answer these questions. Does furniture need to be moved to create a better flow in the room? Does it limit running? Are there areas in the room where children could get into more trouble than others? Are there areas for children to relax? Can the children move around freely? Child sized furniture? Is there a quiet space for the children to retreat if need be? Is your environment set up for every intelligence? (Are there things to investigate with all the senses?)
Give children time limits. For many children, its very hard to be pulled away from their play when a teacher tells them its time to try the potty or its time to transition to another activity. To lessen the outbursts that can occur during these times, give a child a time warning, “In 2 minutes, it’s time to clean up and go outside”, or, “In five minutes I will need you to come into the bathroom to try the potty.” This time limit is a respectful way to allow them the time to adjust to a needed transition I often allow children to bring the toy they are playing with to the bathroom (we put toys in a “waiting basket” while the child use the bathroom) so they feel they can go back to their play uninterrupted. Allowing a child to go back to their play shows them that we value what they are doing, while still showing them some things (like going potty) need its own time as well.
Do not ask a question you have already made up your mind about. This goes for ALL children, but especially for children with challenging behaviors. Do not ask questions like, “Do you want to use the bathroom?” or “Do you want to clean up now?” If its time to try the potty, or clean up asking them if they want to and having them tell you NO is very confusing and often causes major behavior problems when you respond back, “Well, you have to anyway.” You will find that by just telling them, “You have two more minutes to play and then its time to clean up”, they tend to listen far more then if asked, “Do you want to clean up?”
Use appropriate language with children. Explain things to children simply and directly. When conflicts arise, take the children aside and explain exactly what behaviors you did not like. For example, if a child is hitting another child, first stop the child from hitting and then pull them both aside, get down to their level and say in a calm, firm tone, “I don’t like when you hit your friends. If you want the ball he’s holding you can ask him, ‘Can I take a turn with that ball when you’re done?’ You need to remember to use your words instead of hitting.” Use action words like “stop running” instead of “don’t do that.”
Keep parents in the loop. Keep an open dialogue with parents- letting them know what behaviors you are seeing at school/daycare and how the teachers/caregivers are dealing with it. Try to stay consistent from home to school dealing with certain behaviors (for example: If home gives time warnings before transitions, school needs to do the same). When talking to parents make sure you balance the “bad” with the good too. Highlight something positive the child did with a handwritten note to the parents from time to time.