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How to deal with challenging behaviors

Challenging behaviors are common among young children. Many of them have not yet mastered the coping and communication skills needed to deal with frustration. As a result, they may lash out at other students and their teachers. However, early childhood educators can respond to these events in a way that calms children down, and limits problematic behavior in the future. In the following article, we will summarize the main steps to conflict resolution and offer a summary of strategies teachers can employ to deal with challenging behavior. 

Steps in Conflict Resolution

There are six main steps to effective conflict resolution. By working with children, you help them develop the skills that they will find useful in difficult situations. Keep in mind that it takes children varying amounts of time to master these skills, so exercise patience and calm. 

  • Approach the child in a calm fashion, telling them to stop their hurtful actions.
  • Recognize the child's feelings.
  • Try to gather information to understand the situation as fully as possible.
  • Restate the problem.
  • Ask the students involved for ideas and solutions and decide on one together.
  • Continue to give support as needed, while encouraging the students to resolve the problem together.

In addition to working through this six-step process with children, it is important that you use effective teaching strategies. 

Teaching Strategies for Challenging Behavior

  • Alternate with other teachers in dealing with a child's challenging behavior.
  • If the child's behavior gets out of control, intervene to end it. You should do this by calmly holding the child back, explaining to him or her why the behavior is not appropriate.
  • Employ the six steps to conflict resolution to remind the child of the next steps to take in the process. If children are upset and having trouble resolving the situation, you may need to take more time in the initial stages before moving on to the actual problem solving. 
  • Communicate your confidence in the child's ability to control his or her behavior.
  • Once the child has calmed down, offer suggestions for a new activity. 
  • Try to use the daily schedule as a tool to help children control their behavior. 
  • Involve the child's parents in determining ways to deal with challenging behaviors together. 
  • Establish goals as a team, deciding how you will track student's progress and when you will reevaluate the situation. 

ProSolutions Training offers many online child care courses for early childhood educators. For more information about this subject, refer to our course "Environments That Support Children with Challenging Behaviors." Through this class, you will learn how the organization of your preschool classroom can impact children's learning, safety and behavior. When you achieve the right classroom organization, your overall environment will be calmer and more focused, making it easier to supervise children properly and facilitate positive student interactions.  

In addition, after taking the course, you will be able to list the essential elements required for creating a developmentally-appropriate preschool classroom environment, as well as discuss the rationale for arranging the classroom to support children with challenging behaviors.