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How to reinforce positive behavior in the preschool classroom

For many children, preschool is their first introduction to an academic environment. So, it may be a challenge to sit quietly and listen during storytime. Or share colored pencils with their classmates. These concepts can be hard to grasp, especially at the beginning of the school year.
Young children are likely to test behavior and be selective about their choices. The way we respond to these situations can go a long way in creating a positive learning environment. It's important to make sure all your students feel safe. As a teacher, one way to do this is through positive reinforcement.

Positive behavior in classroom

The value of positive reinforcement

In a chaotic preschool setting, it can be easier to spot challenging behavior than good. Hair pulling, yelling, and other negative actions tend to be louder than more positive actions, such as sharing and listening. But, if you want your students to show positive behavior, you need to focus on the good as well. 

“Every conflict presents you with a choice. You can choose to view conflict as an opportunity to teach or as an opportunity to blame and punish.” ― Becky A. Bailey, Conscious Discipline®

Positive reinforcement is the process to reward good and desirable behaviors. For example, families may give a reward for completing household chores. This encourages their child to help around the house.
With a little bit of creativity and planning, this strategy is an easy one to include in the preschool classroom.  

Children reinforcing positive behavior with children.

Ideas for the preschool classroom

Want to encourage positive behavior among your early care and education students? Try one of the following ideas in your classroom:
  • Student leaders: Is a student sharing or being a positive force in the classroom? Reward them by affirming the behavior. Ask if they would like to lead the line when walking to lunch, or help you hand out papers.
  • Positive note: You may have had to write a negative note to a student's parents, but have you written a positive one? If you notice a child is having a good day, write a note home praising the behavior. The student will be proud to show the letter to their family after school. They may be more likely to continue the behavior. 
  • Student behavior: Make an effort to point out things that all the children are doing well. This could be sharing during playtime or cleaning up after making a craft.
  • Verbal praise: Another effective way you can reinforce positive behavior is through praise. Tell your students that you see how hard they're working to behave. Thank them for helping to make the classroom a fun place in which to learn. Be specific in your praise. Instead of "good job," say "good job sharing your cars."
Remember it's important to reinforce the positive behavior of everyone. Try to not only focus on those with excellent behavior. Also, reward those who are trying to improve as well.

Want to learn more about Positive Interaction and Child Guidance?

ProSolutions Training has several courses available - check your state's course catalog.
Also, take a look at Guiding Young Children's Behavior, a new course bundle. This bundle includes a series of courses designed to help teachers, parents, and early care and education professionals. Understand the causes of challenging behaviors in young children. You will also learn strategies to create positive, emotionally supportive environments. Give children the tools to deal with big feelings in more appropriate ways.