Many approaches to understanding and influencing children’s behaviour have been featured in our education and childcare system over recent years. It seems there really is no ‘quick fix’ or one size fits all solution.
My approach is based on thinking about behaviour as an area of learning, similar to language, physical development and other areas of the early years foundation years. I believe it is also important to think in broad terms about what we mean by behaviour – it is everything we say and everything we do. This approach leads us to consider the development and learning related to both appropriate behaviours and those which seem inappropriate.
In reality our expectations of children are very high, especially socially.
Making connections with others is important to us. The majority of our communication is non verbal so it is important to check out the messages we actually give and receive. We can support and plan for children’s social learning including a focus on social language and experiences of interactions. Our lives are governed by communication and degrees of social connection. Seldom do we take the opportunity to consider what is involved in a “successful” interaction, but we know how good it feels when it happens! Accepting that conflict is an inevitable part of all our lives enables us to change our negative view to one of exploring the opportunities for social learning. Adults behaviour directly affects the behaviour of the children. Learning to manage our own behaviour and finding ways to maximise our communication skills.
The adult- child interaction is crucial to the effective learning process therefore we need to be clear about what we need to do and what our purpose is in interacting with children. The characteristics of being open to learning include being relaxed and “joyful” according to Maria Robinson (Robinson 2003). We can use our knowledge of individual children to encourage this to happen more frequently. Learning about, and managing our own behaviour, will positively affect our experiences and help us to support children’s learning. It is certain that children will need to interact socially as adults and will do this most effectively if they have opportunities to learn the skills they need early in life.
Finding the starting point is often the hardest but most important part of problem solving. We can not use statements about what we or others “can’t do” to find a way forward. As a form of baseline information “can do” statements can be a very effective means of identifying not only where the child’s learning is at this point in time but also the realistic next steps to be tackled.