Impact of Challenging Behavior

In recent years, problematic behaviors exhibited by preschool children (ages 3-4years) have become a topic of concern for parents, educators, and school administrators.

About 1/3 of preschool age children engage in persistent patterns of challenging behavior. Preschool teachers consistently report that one of their biggest concerns is dealing with challenging behavior.–Rising rates of preschool expulsion –Expulsion is 3 times more likely in preschool than grades K – Challenging behavior in early childhood years is predictive of future challenges–School failure and lower school attendance –Peer rejection. A effective preschool behavior management strategy comes down to a few key practices. The secret to your success is putting clear behavior expectations in place and enforcing and communicating them in a kind, consistent manner.

Feelings can be overwhelming to a small person who doesn’t have the vocabulary to express what they are thinking or feeling. Behaviors come out sideways – kicking, hitting, and biting are all a cry for help.

What Do We Want Children to Do Instead? Build social-emotional skills that have been identified as essential for success in school –Ability to get along with others –Follow directions–Identify and regulate emotions and behavior–Effectively problem solve to resolve conflict–Persist at a task –Engage in social conversation and cooperative play–Accurately interpret other’s emotions and behavior–Positively assess self and others–Willingness to try new things.

Increasing Behaviors We Want to See. Reinforcement increases desired behaviors.Positive reinforcement adds something desirable –Praise–Tangible rewards (i.e., stickers)Negative reinforcement takes away something unpleasant –Removes an undesirable task/demand –Removes an undesirable situation. Be very conscious of what behaviors you are reinforcing.

Instead, look at aggression as your child’s way of communicating. Feelings can be overwhelming to a small person who doesn’t have the vocabulary to express what they are thinking or feeling. Behaviors come out sideways – kicking, hitting, and biting are all a cry for help.

There is some examples of you can do.

  • Set limits.
  • Establish routines.
  • Stay calm.
  • Play self-control games.
  • Model stress management.
  • Encourage physical activity and outdoor play.
  • Give a heads up.
  • Engage them.

It is normal for toddlers and preschoolers to use aggressive behaviors in order to communicate their needs and wants to others. Spending time helping them build up the skills and vocabulary is time well spent.  These skills may take a while to develop into habits, kids need a lot of opportunities to practice doing relationships well.

Pretty soon, though, your child may shock you in a new way. Using his words instead of actions to express his thoughts and feelings!

You should start to see a decrease in aggressive behaviors over time.  However, if you feel that your child’s aggression is beyond what is “typical” for other children their age, I would encourage you to seek help.