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  • Writer's pictureAnie

Managing Challenging Behaviors

What do you do about those behaviors?

It’s a question I get asked often by concerned parents when children are working through the ”undesirable behaviors phase.” Biting, kicking and hitting is frustrating for everyone involved and can often leave parents and educators at a loss for how best to handle it.

When a child is going through a biting/kicking/hitting phase at the Hive, I send a letter to Hive families with important information and reminders. It has helpful tips and resources for anyone working through undesired behaviors at home or in care. By sharing this Hive letter, I hope that it can help even more families and educators work through challenging and undesirable behaviors.

Greetings Hive!

I am writing to you to address child guidance and behaviors. As the handbook states: "When it comes to guiding children’s behavior, the goal of all educators is to maximize children’s growth and development, while keeping them safe.  I believe respect, clear expectations and consistency minimizes negative behaviors. I strive to create such an environment for your child. However, undesirable behaviors are an inevitable part of development and communication in the early years. I will help your child work through these behaviors in a gentle and responsive manner." We have had a few incidents (biting, pushing, etc) in the Hive recently with our young, pre-verbal toddlers. If your child was involved, rest assured you have already been notified. While a few incidents do not present a chronic issue, it does present an issue that we must carefully monitor and address. With several young toddlers currently enrolled, we expect to manage some undesired but age appropriate behaviors. I feel that it's important for parents to understand how we are monitoring it and how we handle challenging behaviors. So below is information on challenging behaviors, prevention methods and how we respond/handle the situation when challenging behaviors occur. While undesirable and concerning, biting, hitting, kicking, spitting, etc, are all ways toddlers use their body to express needs. All of these physical behaviors, while unacceptable and challenging, are developmentally appropriate for young children as they learn to navigate their world, interact with others, and express themselves clearly. While these behaviors are developmentally appropriate, they are still stressful for parents and educators alike. Everyone wants to ensure a safe environment for everyone. With this in mind I would like to take a moment to further highlight how situations are typically handled throughout the day, how we try to minimize and prevent physical communication, and how we respond when we are unable to diffuse the situation quickly enough. The primary response to challenging behaviors is to minimize and prevent them in the first place. Prevention methods require careful supervision in order to anticipate triggers and intervene when necessary. Young children are just learning to manage emotions and express desires. It is our goal as educators to guide this development by modeling and aiding in appropriate responses. We remind children to use their words/signs and gentle hands, to ask for a turn if they want something, say "that's mine or I'm still using it, etc". Generally, children are fairly capable when it comes to "talking it out" and resolving conflict. Occasionally tension escalates, especially with pre-verbal children. When tension continues to build we approach the situation with direct guidance. At eye level we help the children work through it together as well as being able to stop any physical attempts to lash out. An example may be physically holding the toy in dispute while we talk about how it can be hard to want something and need to wait, modeling how to ask for a turn, prompting the other child to decide if they would like to share or if they are still using it, and redirecting play from there as necessary. Being physically within arms reach, if a child goes to lash out we gentle intervene by blocking the attempt, gently placing their hand/leg against their body, and calmly stating, I can't let you hit/kick/etc, that would hurt so and so. But I see you are upset because xyz (she took your toy, you want the car, etc), Can you tell her/sign xyz (no, that's mine, my turn please, etc). These approaches present opportunities for children to learn and grow. Children learn how to use words effectively and how to communicate and problem solve together. Occasionally, situations escalate more quickly than we can physically be in arms reach to help. When verbal assistance is not enough, and undesirable behaviors unfortunately happen, we intervene with a calm, direct approach. We quickly and firmly address the undesirable behavior, stating, "Don't bite/hit/etc. That hurts." and compassionately ask if the hurt child is ok. The follow-up response depends on the severity of the situation. If necessary we provide first aid (washing, ice, etc.) If first aid is not necessary we offer hugs, kisses, TLC. We work on empathy and give hugs to friends and see if they are ok and work toward genuine apologies (but we don't force saying sorry). We "replay" the situation and sort through feelings and role play more appropriate responses or ways to express desires. In very rare cases of intense escalation, we provide space for children to calm down before rejoining the group ready to try again.

Practice with appropriate adult guidance is the only way children can learn to manage big emotions effectively and peacefully. Every day is a learning opportunity and we strive to help all of the children grow in a peaceful, respectful way.

Communicating with parents is important. Day-to-day scuffles happen in active play with all of the children being on the instigating and receiving end. If behaviors are concerning, are outside of typical age appropriate play, are frequent or intense in nature, or result in injury these situations are always communicated to parents. If your child is struggling with a specific behavior we spend time together discussing the behavior, ways it is handled at home and in care, and ways we may improve our responses. As evident through past behavior concerns in the Hive, this method of communicating and working together is very effective at quickly helping children through behavioral phases. We will continue diligently with this approach as challenging behaviors arise. Any time a child acts out physically, someone is left on the receiving end of the outburst. Children are resilient and are learning to communicate what they do and don't like. We encourage them to say, "No, I don't like that or that hurt me." Generally, children move on quickly from the day-to-day bumps and scuffles of active play and we do not give a play-by-play synopsis of every give and take to parents. However, if an incident is especially upsetting to a child or if the child receives an injury because of it, this is always communicated to parents. EEC requires that educators inform parents 1. Immediately of any injury which requires medical care beyond minor first aid, 2. At the end of the day regarding any minor first aid administered, and 3. In writing within 48 hours of either of the aforementioned incidents. For further reading, the following links are helpful in understanding and appropriately handling challenging toddler behavior. Please also find the link to the EEC regulations. Regulations: AS ALWAYS if you have any questions regarding behaviors in care, my child guidance methods or anything about your child’s care, please don’t hesitate to discuss it with me.

Peace and Love,


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