ME + YOU: learning about myself and those around me
Teach prosocial skills
Prosocial skills help or benefit another individual or the group. The 3 main prosocial behaviors for young children are helping, sharing, and cooperating.. Here are ways to help children learn prosocial behavior, which will help prevent challenging behavior:
Be affectionate. You can be affectionate toward children by smiling, hugging, carrying, sitting with, and speaking with children at their eye level throughout the day. You should be available and responsive to children.
Promote empathy. Guide children to treat each other with respect, and to care for each other. Encourage them to share experiences, ideas, and feelings. Listen to them with attention, interest, and respect. Include children in conversations. Describe your actions, experiences, and events – then listen and respond to children’s suggestions.
Encourage independence. Encourage children’s independence and responsibility through routine activities like cleaning up the classroom, taking care of their own belongings, and obtaining and caring for materials. Give children choices; teach them how to choose activities and make decisions. Encourage them to discuss and resolve conflicts on their own or with an educator’s assistance when necessary.
Give children names for feelings and help them “use their words.” Empathize with and validate children’s feelings. Be attentive even when you don’t understand what the child is trying to say. Give children the vocabulary to express and name their feelings. Help them to solve their problems verbally.
Promote entry into play groups. Young children frequently need encouragement to enter playgroups. Preschoolers tend to enter groups by:
approaching and watching with no attempt to participate
starting the same activity as another child and blending into the ongoing activity
making social greetings or invitations
offering informational statements or questions
asking to join
approaching and trying to control the group or get attention
Help children negotiate conflict
Teachers need to help children develop negotiating skills to handle conflicts. Children use social problem-solving skills to resolve issues in a matter that benefits them and is acceptable to others. Here are 6 suggested steps for teaching conflict resolution:
Identify and define the conflict.
Invite children to participate in solving the problem.
Work together to generate possible solutions.
Examine each idea for how well it might work.
Help children with plans to implement the solution.
Follow up to evaluate how well the solution worked.
Use the classroom
Prepare the classroom environment to best help children learn prosocial skills. Here are some ideas:
To encourage discussion and problem-solving, place exploratory activities in the science area that can be played by 2 or more children.
Introduce books that deal with perspective taking, feelings, and emotions in the literacy corner.
Include a dollhouse with people of many cultures represented in the housekeeping area.
Place giant floor puzzles in the manipulative area so children can work together towards a common goal.
Play a parachute game where cooperation is necessary during large motor times.
Promote helping skills and acts of kindness by setting up opportunities in the dramatic play area such as a pet hospital.
Set up bath time for baby dolls in the sensory table. Model caring and helping behaviors.
Supply paint, brushes, and a very large piece of paper for the whole class to make a mural in the art area.
Display children’s work in the classroom at their level.
Self-regulation is the ability to internally regulate one’s own behavior rather than depending on others to enforce it. Self-control helps children learn, supports their growth and development, and is fundamental to creating social order. Children demonstrate self-control when they
control their impulses, wait, and suspend action,
postpone immediate gratification, and
initiate a plan and carry it out over time.
As educators, our ultimate goal is to teach children to manage their own behavior. Teaching children to self-manage increases the likelihood that appropriate behavior will last. It allows teachers to spend more time teaching and less time trying to control behavior. Here are 4 suggested strategies:
Use direct instruction to let children know what behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate. For example, restricting certain behaviors (“Five more minutes on the swing.”) or redirecting children’s behaviors (“You can bounce the ball outside.”).
Implement logical consequences (throwing sand means leaving the sandbox for another activity).
Integrate emotions, development, and experience to help children make an internal map. (“When you share the chalk with Tommy, it makes him happy.”).
Provide repeated opportunities for children to practice self-control and refine their behavior. Self-control evolves over time.
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