The term discipline means different things to different people. Here at EDS, all the staff follow the same procedures for dealing with issues that require limits to be set. The following list describes how guidance and discipline are enforced at each center.
Limit Setting and Consistency- For children to feel confident in exploring their surrounding, they must clearly know what is expected of them. Once they know what to expect, they can plan their own behavior accordingly. Rules are kept few, simple, clear, and concise. Limits, expectations, and adult responses remain consistent throughout the center. Boundaries and expectations grow as the abilities of the child increase.
Tone of Voice- Children can gather information about a situation by the words that an adult is using as well as their tone of voice. Using a firm, kind, serious tone, but with body language that is relaxed, tells a child that you will keep him/her safe, everything is under control, and that you are willing to help the child work through the conflict.
Modeling Behavior- Not only does what we say and how we say it send a message to children, how we act and respond also sends clear messages to children. As the adult, it is our responsibility to model the appropriate behavior. For example, if you do not want children to throw things across the room, then the next time you see a toy lying out, instead of picking it up and tossing it in the basket, you should pick up the toy, walk over to where it belongs and put it away.
Passive Intervention- Sometimes the best solution to helping children with conflicts is to do nothing. Stand close in case the situation becomes physical, but allow the children time to work through the problem themselves.
Physical Intervention- Children will be stopped when hurting each other. Children will be told “STOP” firmly, removed from the immediate situation, and given a brief reason for why the behavior is unacceptable before being allowed to reenter the play.
Identifying the Conflict- When conflicts arise, often times children are so involved they are unable to control themselves and need an adult to help them resolve the problem. Caregivers can help a child regain control by giving the child the words to identify the issue. “You both wanted that bike.”
Validating Feeling- Acknowledging emotions is vitally important in order for learning to occur in conflict situations. It is essential that all children involved feel that they are being listened to. Caregivers might say something like, “You are angry that you cannot have a turn yet,” or “It made you sad that Mom had to leave.” Children are NEVER told to say that they are sorry because in most cases children do not know what it means to be sorry.
Redirection- Redirection is one of the most commonly used forms of discipline used with infants and toddlers. Children are given appropriate alternatives to replace the negative behavior. For example, “You may kick the ball. It hurts when you kick the children,” or “It is not safe to climb on the table. Let’s go to the climber instead.”
Natural Consequences- Just like with passive intervention, sometimes natural consequences are the best forms of discipline. Caregivers may point out and reinforce natural consequences such as “If you wiggle in your chair, your milk will spill,” or “You threw the block after I told you not to. Now you need to find something else to play with.”
Offering Choices- Allowing children to make choices for themselves is one way to eliminate struggles. Make sure the choices are appropriate to the situation and that the amount of choices is limited. “Johnny, you seem to be doing a lot of hitting. Would you like to play with the clay and hammers or throw a ball?”
Time Out- Time out is not a method used at EDS. While it may stop the immediate behavior, it does not help children acquire the skills they need to deal with the situation should it arise again. Each classroom has a designated thinking/quiet place should a child need time to gather themselves.
All the strategies listed above can be used at home as well. One of the most effective ways to promote positive discipline is to have consistency both at home and at the center. Children need to learn about boundaries, what is safe, what is acceptable or not and why.
Restraint or holding a child is a last resort measure used only when a child is so upset and so intense that he or she is unable to talk and is a danger to self or others. An adult will hold the child with just sufficient strength to protect the other children and restore calm. A screaming and thrashing child may need to be soothed in this manner before discussing the incident. Expect the child to take some time to calm. Out of control children can frighten themselves by their behavior so it is important that we maintain a soft, soothing voice and gently rock the child within our firm grasp if at all possible.
Parent conferences will be requested if the teaching staff deems it necessary to set up a behavior modification plan for the child. If the previous listed steps and the behavior modification plan do not contribute to a positive change in the child, the teaching staff may elect to terminate care. Reasons for termination of care in regards to behavior include, but are not limited to: child’s inability to adapt to the group care setting, constituting a hazard to self and others, requiring individual attention which substantially reduces staff time and attention needed for other children in the program and abuse of teachers and/or other children.
Progress may be slow. It takes time for children to understand self-control instead of adult imposed punishment. We will always remain consistent! Helping children learn to control themselves takes time, but is essential for them to grow into an independent and caring person.