Helping Families to Support Positive Behaviors
Every month, we receive an email from the Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center (ECLKC) that includes recent announcements from the Office of Head Start, as well as information on any resources that have been recently posted or updated in the knowledge center. If you don’t receive ECKLC’s emails, we highly recommend signing up. The information is always useful and timely.
In one of ECLKC’s recent emails, it listed some new tip sheets that had been recently posted in the knowledge center. These tip sheets were part of an initiative called “Supporting Positive Behaviors,” spearheaded by the National Center on Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety (NCHBHS). According to the website, the NCHBHS is one of four National Centers under the Head Start umbrella whose mission is to “design evidence-based resources & deliver innovative training and technical assistance (TTA) to build the capacity of Head Start and other early childhood programs.”
In our effort to get back to basics for Head Start in the post-pandemic period, we think this topic on supporting positive behaviors is particularly timely. The 2022-2023 school year might be challenging for some children. It might be the first year in a while that they will be able to reliably be in the classroom throughout the entire year. For others, they may be entering preschool for the first time after an extended period in isolation with only close relatives. Children will have big feelings, oftentimes without the appropriate language skills to define those feelings. They may act out. It’s our job as teachers and parents to help children navigate these feelings and teach them how to deal with them in an appropriate way.
“Families can make a big difference in their child’s behavior,” writes the introduction to the tip sheets. “These tip sheets offer strategies and resources for how families can promote positive behaviors by connecting with the child, talking about feelings, teaching the child positive behaviors, and doing self-care.”
Connecting with Your Child During Challenging Moments
Ask any parent: Staying calm while a child is having a tantrum or otherwise acting out feels like it takes the patience of a saint. However, this tip sheet reminds parents and caregivers that “when you stay calm, you can teach your child that all feelings are OK, and you can help you child learn skills to handle tough moments.”
One Greek proverb says, “One minute of patience, ten years of peace.” If a parent or caregiver can practice patience now and connect with their child during challenging moments, the skills they teach them to manage those moments will carry on throughout their childhood and indeed throughout the rest of their life.
Teaching Your Child About Feelings
“You can take steps to teach your child how to express how they feel,” the tip sheet opens.
Many parents might not realize that naming and understanding feelings is a skill that needs to be taught to children. That’s why the tip sheet explains that it’s important to “notice and name feelings.” Not only the child’s feelings, but also their own.
“Notice, name, and model your feelings,” the tip sheet says.
The example it provides says that instead of telling a child “You never listen!,” the parent should try to say something like, “I feel frustrated right now. I am going to take a deep breath. That will help me feel better.”
Teaching Your Child Positive Behaviors
Parents and caregivers might be tempted to just read this tip sheet and ignore the others, looking for some “magic cure” to their child’s difficult behaviors or temper tantrums. In reality, supporting positive behaviors in children is a long-term, ongoing process that must include connecting with children, noticing and naming feelings, as well as teaching positive behaviors.
One of the primary takeaways I took from this document was to remember to “speak up when your child behaves well.” The example it gave was instead of saying nothing when the child cleans up toys after being asked, the parent or caregiver should say something like, “Wow, you cleaned up your toys the first time I asked you. What a good helper you are!”
Taking Care of Yourself
Children can easily sense when adults are stressed, and they can feed off of that energy. When we’re stressed, children will be stressed. I know that “self-care” has become an overused buzzword that can make families in poverty roll their eyes at yet another thing they’re told they NEED to buy. But true self-care isn’t about a day at the spa or a fancy vacation. Self-care is more about practicing the small everyday things that make us feel good and bring us joy. In my small opinion, gratitude is one of the absolute best ways to practice self-care. When we call out the things that make us happy and say we’re thankful for those things, it brings a renewed perspective and can enhance our overall well-being.
What do you think about these tip sheets and the additional resources they point to? Will you be using them in your program? Leave us a comment below!