How to Deal with Challenging Behavior in a Supportive and Effective Way

Challenging Behavior image

Are there times when children in your classroom exhibit behavior that interferes with their development and learning?  Can their behavior sometimes prevent other children in the classroom from learning? Could it even be dangerous?  Then these children – even those who usually exhibit positive behavior – are displaying challenging behavior.  As a teacher this can be frustrating!  It is important to understand the reasons for inappropriate behavior and have the classroom management tools to promote prosocial or “helping” behaviors such as sharing, cooperating, helping and empathy (having feelings for others).

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Professional Development Resource

One successful teaching strategy that’s been used to help guide students’ behavior is the Supportive Guidance Approach.  Teachers who use the Supportive Guidance Approach are warm and caring, but also set limits on children’s behaviors and guide them to more appropriate behaviors.

Some suggested techniques of the Supportive Guidance Approach include:

  1. Encouraging children to use words to resolve their differences.  Help them articulate what it is they need or want rather than strike out by hitting or crying when they are frustrated or upset.
  2. Redirecting inappropriate behaviors that children may use by focusing the children on another activity or interest.
  3. Modeling the behaviors you want the children to show in the classroom.  Encourage other adults interacting with the children to also model good behaviors.

Highly Successful Strategies to Guide Young Children’s Behavior, a professional development DVD, takes place in real classrooms and shows proven supportive guidance techniques to foster positive prosocial behavior and self-regulation in the early childhood classroom.

In addition to supportive guidance techniques, this program also illustrates classroom management techniques to reduce inappropriate behaviors.  Powerful recommendations include:

  1. Organizing spaces in an orderly fashion and allowing enough room for children to move about.
  2. Pacing activities and levels of instruction to the age and interests of the students.
  3. Limiting transitions and being clear about moving from one activity to the next.
  4. Providing adequate physical activity.

Highly Successful Strategies to Guide Young Children’s Behavior features a diverse group of teachers demonstrating specific methods to deal with an assortment of inappropriate behaviors in the early childhood classroom.  A manual included with the DVD provides teachers with discussion activities and the opportunity to reflect on their own classroom guidance practices.

Additional Supportive Resources

Another challenge faced by teachers today is the rigidity of the classroom schedule. All too often, the children have been sitting still for far too long.  You may notice that many students get fidgety and start to behave inappropriately (even those that normally exhibit good behavior).  It’s important to integrate regular movement breaks throughout the day to help your students stay focused and on track.

Sometimes your students just need a little mental break.  A good mindfulness practice in the classroom is handy to have.  Play some music specifically developed for rest, relaxation and meditation .  Ask your students to relax, breathe and use the music to inspire pictures in their head.


Posted in Music & Movement, Professional Development, Social & Emotional Behavior, What's New Tagged with: , ,

Teaching Dignity and Respect



“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”


December is National Human Rights Month.  This is a time when we recognize and acknowledge that every individual has basic human rights, as outlined in the Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1948.  This is a good time to teach dignity and respect in your classroom. 

Talk with your students about what dignity means

“Dignity is something that every person has. Dignity is knowing that we matter, that everyone matters! Having dignity means that we treat all people with kindness and respect. We know that we all will do great things in our lives and will work hard to make the world abetter place.”


Discuss the 5 principles of dignity

“Every person:

  • has the right to be who and what they want to be and be the best versions of themselves.
  • deserves to be educated, healthy, and safe.
  • has their life, identity and beliefs respected by others.
  • should help others live good lives, strengthen the dignity of others, and make sure everyone lives in freedom and peace.
  • believes that dignity means taking action when people aren’t being treated with kindness and respect.”


Songs like “I Like Me” and “EverybodyHas Feelings” from Hap Palmer’s Ideas,Thoughts and Feelings recording help reinforce ideas about dignity, respect and empathy. The simple, clear lyrics introduce children to the concepts, which underpin dignity and respect, in an understandable, concrete way.

Share and learn

Ask your students to identify dignity (a sense of pride in oneself) in their own lives. Talk about a time when they showed respect to someone else or when they were kind to someone. Ask them if they’ve ever helped someone.  They can draw pictures about helping others and then share and talk about them with the class.

Our SELF! – Social and Emotional Learning Fun!  CD collection can extend this exercise into a great integrated SEL lesson. A variety of songs help children recognize and label their emotions and gain appreciation of their abilities. The songs also promote cooperation, empathy with peers and socially appropriate behavior.  Additionally, the songs and activities provide a seamless way to incorporate SEL into your literacy curriculum. 

More resources for teaching dignity and respect for kids can be found at The Global Dignity website.

Other Related Articles:

Teaching Tolerance in the Classroom

Posted in Bullying Prevention, News, Social & Emotional Behavior, What's New Tagged with: , , , ,

The Power of Mindfulness for Young Children

mindfulness meditating

MindfulnessLately, a lot of attention has been paid to mindfulness in education.  Schools are incorporating it into the curriculum; creating after school yoga programs; and even adding meditation classes. But what exactly is mindfulness?

The dictionary definition of mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.  Essentially, mindfulness is the ability to clear your mind of all the extra thoughts and focus on the now. This provides a great foundation for learning – remove all the other thoughts from your mind so you can concentrate on what’s right in front of you.

The benefits of mindfulness are helpful throughout one’s life.   Mindfulness not only can help children (and adults) cope with stress and challenging moments, it can also reinforce appreciation of their own strength and kindness.  Additionally, mindfulness is also effective for young children because it promotes skills like focus and cognitive control, which impact development of critical skills including self-regulation, judgment and patience.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls these skills.  Because connections in the prefrontal circuits develop fastest in childhood, mindfulness is a habit that can be quickly developed in young children. (Source; David Gelles, New York Times – Well)

mindfulness meditatingMindfulness does not always come easily for young children.  It is a skill that can be taught and modeled by the adults that surround them.

It is relatively easy to start a mindfulness practice with your students.  It is about relaxing and breathing. Take a few minutes out of your day to create a peaceful environment, ask the children to close their eyes; then take a few breaths.

Play some music specifically developed for rest, relaxation and meditation.  Ask your students to create pictures in their head of what the music makes them feel like or what they think it sounds like. If you can make time for this every day, you will begin to see the benefits of mindfulness as your students develop skills they can draw upon throughout their lives.

Numerous, well-known studies show the benefits of mindfulness in reducing stress and enhancing self-awareness. (Read more in our article: Mindfulness Training in the Classroom.) But recently, there have been studies of adolescents and college students focused on the cognitive and academic benefits of mindfulness and linking it to increased memory function and better grades. (Sources: Journal of Adolescent Health, Journal of MindfulnessImpact of Mindfulness and academic performance)

Whether you include mindfulness in your daily routine for the developmental benefits or for the possible academic benefits, it can help your students thrive in the classroom.

Recommended recordings:

Sea Gulls – Music for Rest and Relaxation

A Child’s World of Lullabies

Quiet Places  

Quiet Time


Other Mindfulness information:

Mindful Schools Website

Mindfulness Exercise for Preschoolers


Posted in Health, Social & Emotional Behavior, Uncategorized, What's New Tagged with: , , ,

Bully Prevention in the Classroom

Bully Prevention Photo

October is Bully Prevention Month. It’s a good time to step back and review what you do to promote safety and security in your classroom. Although bullying is not new, today’s teachers have several tools that help children understand what bullying is, how to recognize it and how they can deal with it.

Bully Prevention Photo

Help your students understand bullying. Generally, bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior that is repeated over time.  There are several types of bullying: verbal, social and physical.  When children know what bullying is, they can identify it and report it, or stop it.  Young kids especially need to understand that bullying is not okay.

Encourage children to talk to adults about bullying situations. For young children, an effective – yet fun – way to build the vocabulary they need to talk about bullying and the techniques they need to deal with bullying can be incorporated into your classroom through Music and Movement activities.  Bully Smart Kids is a great recording that uses easy-to-sing, catchy, danceable songs that help young children develop self-esteem and empathy, build awareness of bullying, learn how to handle negative feelings and cool off.  In addition to encouraging children to speak with adults, it stresses concepts like respecting other’s space, managing angry feelings and using conflict resolution to solve problems.

Another strategy is to have kids take part in activities, interests, and hobbies they like. When children get involved with activities that they enjoy, not only are they having fun and learning more about themselves, they are meeting others with the same interests. They can build confidence and friendships that help protect them from bullying.

Research also shows that in addition to awareness education and keeping kids active, teaching SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) is very effective in bully prevention.  Developing empathy in children has been shown to reduce bullying. When children understand and appreciate that everyone has feelings, they are equipped to treat others with kindness and respect. If you are interested in learning more about integrating SEL strategies into your classroom, read our article “Is Social Emotional Learning Coming to a School Near You?

Much of the research on bullying shows that the earlier we start to prevent this behavior, the better the results!

For more information on Bully Prevention visit

Posted in Bullying Prevention, Health, Social & Emotional Behavior, Trauma, What's New Tagged with: , , , ,

Incorporating Square Dancing Into Your PE Class

Happy International Square Dancing Month! Promenade and Do-si-do your way to a delightful dance form that children find intriguing and fun!  Square Dancing has been taught in elementary schools around the country for generations.  It’s easy to teach and has many benefits for everyone from children to adults.

While you may be aware of the physical benefits that dancing provides, there are many cognitive and SEL related skills that dancing also can offer children.  Square dancing, in particular, is great for the developing minds of young children.  The call and response style of square dancing helps teach the value of listening and reinforces the importance of following directions.  The calls are in patterns, a basic math skill.  The repetitive nature of the songs and steps are great for increasing coordination and rhythmic response. And, of course, dancing with a partner is an ideal way to teach cooperation, socialization and taking turns.

If you’re interested in incorporating square dance into your PE curriculum, the first thing you’ll need is a great square dance album with songs that children will enjoy. Our favorite, Get Ready to Square Dance , is easy to do – it starts off with simple calls and builds up to two complete dances.  Click here to watch a PE class using this recording to learn the promenade movement.

You can also check out more great Square Dancing music options on our website.  We know your children will have a great time and also gain some very important skills!

More video examples of square dancing in PE classes with the Get Ready to Square Dance recording:

Comin’ Round the Mountain

Oh Belinda

Capt. Jinks

Turkey in the Straw

Shoo Fly


Educational Activities, Inc. led the way of introducing square dancing to schools across the country.  Read “Our Story” to learn more!

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