Archive for November 2006

Social Emotional Skills

A critical piece of teaching children social and emotional behavior skills is to do just that-teach the skills. Many adults wait until a child misbehaves or "pushes their buttons" before reacting. The result is usually some type of discipline or punishment. Teaching does not occur in the heat of the moment, only emotional reactions. Therefore, children often repeat the behavior. Good teachers (and parents) teach their children appropriate behavior BEFORE inappropriate behavior occurs. When a child has background knowledge prior to the episode, the adult can say, "Remember when we talked about not hitting someone? What did we decide you should do instead?" This kind of a dialog instantly de-escalates the situation so that reasoning and understanding can take over, not emotional reactions. Previously setting up consequences also takes the emotion out of the moment. Both the child and adult already know the consequences (previously chosen with the input of the child) for the behavior.

Designing Supportive Environments

In my last entry I mentioned that the most critical piece of the social emotional aspect of early childhood is building positive relationships. The second most important piece is designing supportive environments. When negative behaviors are occurring, a teacher should analyze the basic set up of the classroom to see if the environment is encouraging negative behaviors (i.e., a large open space encouraging the children to run around instead of exploring at centers). I find that this is also true at home. I had all of my grandchildren at my house for an early Thanksgiving this weekend. We needed to plan a space where all the children could play comfortably so that disagreements would not occur. I was busy cooking, so I didn't do a very good job. When I took the time to look at the space, everything was better. Next time I will be more prepared. It is always important to remember our early childhood strategies because they work everywhere!

Building Positive Relationships

I was in Tennessee last week visiting with the wonderful preschool teachers in Murfreesboro School District. There is nothing in this world like an organized and high quality preschool setting. What a wonderful way for children to begin learning skills. I am reminded again about research indicating that nurturing teachers help children make more academic gains than drill sergeants. In fact, we know that building positive relationships is the most critical aspect of helping children build positive social and emotional skills. Check out the website for the Center for Social and Emotional Foundations in Early Learning ( for more information about building social and emotional skills. What a joy to see loving preschool teachers. They should be everywhere!