I believe that a child needs limits which provide him with a sense of security, safety and consistency. I also believe that a child should be offered choices whenever possible- enabling him to have some control over changing his behaviors. If a child cannot make an appropriate choice, or behaves in a manner inconsistent with his choice, then it is time for the adult to guide. This guidance must always be in a positive manner, following certain steps which child development specialists deem most appropriate and effective. These steps are as follows:
1. Get down on the child's level physically (bend down to meet the child eye to eye if possible).
2. Maintain eye contact, with a gentle hand on the shoulder if
needed, speaking in a calm, caring voice.
3. Explain why the behavior is inapropriate. ie: "Hitting hurts,
it's not OK to hit someone."
4. Acknowledge and validate the child's feelings (because all feelings
are ok) and explain a possible alternate action. ie: "You seem
angry because he took your toy. It's ok to be angry but it's not
ok to hit. Use words to tell him that you want your toy back."
(note: toddlers need shorter explanation and redirection: "Hitting
hurts. No hitting. Let's go play over here instead."
5. Redirect the child if needed. ie: "Let's go play in another area."
Remember that there is a difference between DISCIPLINE and PUNISHMENT. Discipline uses behavior management techniques which will help the child learn.
Corporal punishment, physical reprimanding, spanking and/or yelling at a child are not only illegal in a child care setting but definitely against my principles and certainly ineffective discipline. Guidance must be given in a way which does not compromise the child's self-esteem (which can lead to serious emotional problems later in life) and focusing on the BEHAVIOR, not the child himself. ie: "I like you, but I don't like what you did." Everyone deserves respect for their feelings, whether an infant, preschooler, teen or adult. All of our feelings are valid, real and acceptable. But what we DO with those feelings, the actions we choose to express those feelings are the things that need to be learned as we grow. It is my job along with the parent, to help each child learn acceptable ways of expressing their feelings.
Children will most often be given second chances. This is how they are able to show what they have learned. They will also be given choices when appropriate. ie: "Can you pick up the blocks yourself or shall I help you?" (The blocks get picked up either way but the child has some control over HOW they will be picked up- therefore the power-struggle is avoided).
If a child needs time away from the group to gain control over his emotions or body, this period of "time out" will not be in any one particular chair or area, but rather a place of the child's or my choice at the given moment. This removal from the area or group isn't to "shame" a child but rather to take an opportunity to talk with me on what's going on with the child and how we can solve the problem. Remember that discipline is a time to learn appropriate behaviors.
Temper tantrums are a normal part of childhood, not only for toddlers but for preschoolers as well.
(School-agers and teenagers have their own form of "temper tantrums" too!) We can understand that they are normal and to be expected but it obviously does not make them acceptable. At Apple Tree, temper tantrums are dealt with through patience, hugs and understanding!