Challenging behaviors might feel all-too-familiar to many early learning professionals. The crying, screaming, yelling, whining, or dropping to the ground can sometimes become an unfortunate routine in group care.
Rutgers University’s Boggs Center on Child Development defines challenging behavior as a “persistent pattern of behavior, or perception of behavior [that] interferes with or risk of interfering with optimal learning [or] engagement in pro-social interactions,” and reports that about 1/3 of preschool age children engage in persistent patterns of challenging behavior. Other examples of challenging behaviors might include (but are not limited to) hitting, biting, or other aggressive behaviors, distracting or repetitive movements, and refusal to comply with classroom rules or routines. The tantrum fits into this group of behavior. Florida’s Positive Behavior and Support Project’s presentation explains that a “‘tantrum’ can be defined as any of the following: (1) crying and throwing objects, (2) laying on the floor, stomping feet, (3) screaming at everyone in the room.”
WestEd’s article, Helping Early Childhood Educators Deal with Challenging Behavior, shares how reflective practice can be a practical and useful approach for addressing these behaviors. Reflective practice incorporates observation and reflection to identify patterns and understand the root of behaviors.
For example, if children are regularly demonstrating challenging behaviors in the classroom, the following questions can be asked: “When are they the loudest and most unruly? At what points do they seem to be the most engaged? What might they be telling us with this behavior?” Through observation and reflection, these questions can be answered in order to make important changes that will lessen the challenging behavior.
An Approach to Managing Behavior