Lesson 4: Promoting a Positive Learning Environment

Guiding Behavior and Managing the Classroom

Chapter Objectives
At the end of the chapter, students should be able to:

  • Identify factors that influence behavior
  • Discuss the role of teachers in guiding behavior
  • Explain influences on behavior
  • Summarize principles of positive guidance
  • Describe guidance strategies to use for children with disabilities
  • Apply positive strategies to address behaviors


Social-emotional development is foundational to children’s learning in all other domains. Through children’s experiences in close relationships with parents and teachers, children develop and learn the social-emotional skills necessary to act and interact with self-confidence, regulate their behavior, and be successful in the early school years and beyond. With the guidance of responsive and caring adults, “young children develop an understanding of other people’s feelings and needs, are encouraged to feel empathy and caring, learn to manage their own behavior as responsible group members, and acquire a variety of other capabilities that will be directly related to their success in managing the classroom environment of kindergarten or the primary grades” (CDE 2008, 4).

The Teacher’s Role: Build and Maintain Positive Relationships with Children

Teachers build meaningful relationships with children during day-to-day interactions with them. Since relationships are central to young children’s learning and development, effective preschool teachers engage in consistent efforts to develop positive and nurturing relationships with each child they serve. Preschool teachers understand the importance of consistency, continuity, and responsiveness in supporting children’s healthy social and emotional development (adapted from California Department of Education and First 5 California 2012, 121). In cases in which children display challenging behaviors, teachers can focus even more directly on cultivating a relationship with the children during less stressful times (when children behave appropriately) and rely on additional support through ongoing mentoring and coaching (e.g., reflective supervision, early childhood mental health consultation) to put in place effective strategies to establish and sustain positive relationships with young children. When teachers engage in positive, nurturing relationships with young children, children feel safe and confident to engage deeply in exploration and learning. For those children who come to the classroom displaying challenging behaviors, nurturing, stable, and positive relationships with teachers often help to provide them with the emotional support needed to develop future positive relationships with teachers and peers (Buyse et al. 2008).

Development is often referred to as a journey, not a race. Children navigate their journey through individual rates of development. Along the journey, there are many milestones and developmental successes to celebrate, but alongside these celebrations there are behavioral considerations that challenge children and their caregivers. Teaching young children is not just about creating an environment and a curriculum, but also providing limits, clear expectations and applying developmentally appropriate strategies to guide young children in navigating their journey. Most importantly, teachers must also demonstrate a sensitivity to a variety of children’s needs, temperaments and learning styles.

Texas Director