Having Appropriate Expectations for Behavior

It is really important that we realize that often what adults consider to be challenging behaviors are entirely age-appropriate responses from children. So it is important that teachers:

  • Respond adaptively to individual children, considering each child’s age, temperament, language, communication skills, culture, interests, and abilities.
  • Examine their own expectations of “appropriate” and “safe” behavior, looking for potential bias toward gender or developmental skills.

Involving Children in Guidance Curriculum

It is a valuable learning experience to involve children in creating/defining the classroom rules. They become invested in those expectations. Teachers should use the following umbrella when creating classroom rules:

  • Keep self safe: (walk inside, feet on the floor, etc…)
  • Keep others safe: (keep hands to themselves)
  • Keep materials/environment safe: (keep books on the shelf to prevent tearing, throw balls, dig with shovels, etc…)

Stating Behavior Expectations

Behavioral expectations are the appropriate behaviors expected from children during specific activities and routines. By stating behavioral expectations in advance of activities, routines and transitions, we allow children more opportunities to be successful. When children clearly understand what we expect of them, they can more securely play and work within a set of parameters. Other benefits of teaching behavioral expectations are that it:

  • Maximizes children’s learning time. When we tell children our expectations ahead of time, we spend less time playing catch-up during the activity.
  • Builds a common language. When we outline behavioral expectations for activities, routines and transitions, we help build a common language among the teachers and children. Using the same phrases during the same activities, help children to understand the meaning of the expectations (i.e., walking feet and putting breakfast dishes in the brown bucket).
  • Provides a consistent message to children. Giving children mixed messages about what is okay and not okay detracts from learning and engagement over time. When we say, write, and model our message consistently to children, they are more likely to get it.
  • Sets the stage for learning. Developing behavioral expectations before activities begin creates an atmosphere ripe for engagement and learning.
  • Helps prevent behavior problems before they happen. When we tell children in positive ways what is expected of them before they act, we can more readily reinforce the behaviors we want to see, based on our stated expectations.