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Positive child guidance and supervision

Sara Gable, Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies,
College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension

Principles of Positive Child Guidance

  1. The safety of the children is your first concern. This includes both physical and emotional safety.
  2. Children learn most from our own conduct. Be a good model and the children will follow you.
  3. Have age-appropriate expectations of children’s behavior.
  4. Be clear and consistent when explaining and enforcing limits to children and follow through (e.g., “I told you 5 minutes ago not to throw sand because it makes a mess and gets in other children’s eyes. I also told you that if I saw you throwing it again, you’d need to find something new to do--it’s time to find something new to do. You can climb, read books in the treehouse, or ride a trike; what would you like to do?”).
  5. When enforcing limits, disapprove of the child’s behavior, not the child.
  6. Be patient and kind with children, they are trying to understand the world we live in and need our care and teaching.

Preventing Problems

  1. Maintain a clean, safe, and stimulating learning environment in your program.
  2. Establish a predictable schedule that meets individual and group needs.
  3. Plan and implement developmentally appropriate activities.
  4. State your suggestions and directions positively (e.g., “Please keep the puzzle pieces on the table. It’s too easy for them to get lost when you play with them on the floor.”)
  5. Keep rules to a minimum. Remind children of rules and limits before they start an activity (e.g., “Remember, keep the beans IN the water table”). Children need to know what is expected.
  6. Catch the children being good (e.g., “I see you picking up those blocks! Thank you, it helps keep the block area clean and organized.”; “What a good idea to take turns on the slide, everybody likes to have a turn.”).

Responding to Problems

  1. Use discipline encounters to teach children acceptable behavior.
  2. Seek to understand the reason for the misbehavior (See the world through the child’s eyes).
  3. Emphasize that the behavior is the problem, not the child.
  4. Avoid using a harsh, frustrated, or tense tone of voice; this often leads to escalation and power struggles.
  5. Remember to end conflicts with a reconciliation or apology: Hug the child and tell the child that you still care for him or her, it was the child’s behavior that made you unhappy. Showing children how to resolve conflicts helps them learn that when things go wrong, they can be made right again



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Last updated: 12/02/15