By Lindsay Campbell, Pre-K Teacher-LPP Germania
Classroom management is one of the most important aspects of teaching. Setting expectations, allowing for children to make their own appropriate choices, understanding the limits of being part of the group and coping when the answer is ‘no’ are boundaries that let children feel safe and confident. Incorporating the following strategies at home can make transitions and negotiations more fluid and stress-free.
Set Limits and Expectations – Setting limits and expectations are important for children to feel confident and secure. Providing reasons for your expectations can also help your child accept your limits without becoming defensive. For instance, before going to the playground you could explain to your child that it might be busy and that they will have to be patient waiting for a turn on the swing. You could mention that they need to slide down the slide on their bottom as opposed to climbing up it. When children know what is expected of them, they develop the ability to become self-aware and to self-discipline. When you see your child follow through with your expectations, be sure to notice and praise them!
Related Consequences – When a child makes an undesirable choice, it is important to make sure their consequence is related to the choice they made. For example, if a child chooses to knock over their sibling’s block tower, a related consequence might be to help rebuild the block tower. If they continue to knock it down, a further related consequence might be to have the child find a new area to play. An unrelated consequence, such as cancelling a plan to watch a movie before bedtime, can be confusing to the child, as it does not relate to the reason there is a consequence in the first place.
Statements vs. Questions – Do not ask your child for permission if you don’t really need it. If you are ready to take your child home at the end of the day, tell them so. Give your child reasonable and clear directions, such as, “It’s time to go. Please put your toys away.” Children are more likely to respond to statements such as this as opposed to, “Are you ready to go now?” Take “OK?” out of your vocabulary. Ending your request with “OK?” unknowingly turns it into a question that requires permission. When you ask for permission, you open yourself up to your child’s ability to tell you, “no,” which can in turn lead to an unnecessary power struggle.
Offer Appropriate Choices – Choices are important for children to have a feeling of control and to help build their self-esteem. In some cases, offering your child appropriate choices that are acceptable to you helps to sidestep the power struggle of many challenging situations. For instance, “You need to take a bath. Do you want to take it now or in five minutes?” creates a win-win situation where your child is in charge, within your parameters. You are happy because your child cooperates and your child is happy because they made their own choice.
It’s Okay to Say “No” – Telling a child “no” can often be more difficult on an adult than it is on the child. While we might feel bad that we made them feel sad or disappointed, saying “no” is actually important for children to hear. When children are inexperienced with being told “no,” they can lose their ability to delay gratification, learn patience, and cope with disappointment. We know that life is challenging and that none of us get what we want all the time, so its best we give children the skills necessary to become strong, adaptable, well-adjusted individuals.