The request came via email ‘Would you be willing to do a workshop on indirect guidance and behaviour management – talk about yourself, your experiences, and your behaviour management policies – particularly all of the indirect guidance to avoid conflicts before they happen?’
I was intrigued – this was quite different than speaking to the ‘Intro to Family Childcare’ classes or groups that want to know more about nature based education. I was honoured – you see, this request came from an ECE who had been to my home for her final practicum. She had found her time here so interesting that she wanted me to talk to her coworkers. Wow.
I said yes.
Over the next few weeks I began trying to put together a slideshow presentation about my behavior management policies. I also began to have some doubts. I was comfortable talking about family childcare to students who were just beginning their careers. I could talk to anyone who wanted to know more about indoor and outdoor play spaces, gardening with children, outdoor play. I could easily show pictures and tell stories about these things because I love these things.
I don’t love behaviour management. Dealing with conflict is the most stressful part of my job – I would do anything to avoid it. What could I tell a group of staff members from a large childcare facility about behavior management? I have absolutely no experience working in centre based childcare.
I started making PowerPoint slides of all the various sections of my written behaviour management policies. I read them over and panicked a little – my written policies are generic and boring. A two hour presentation based on these would be impossible.
I realized that during in the 40 hours that the practicum student was here we had never reviewed my written policies. Everything she knew and loved about what I did came from her observations, comments, questions, and the stories I told her about different responses in a similar situations with other groups of children.
I made more PowerPoint slides. Slides about temperament. Slides about environments. Slides about looking for the cause of misbehaviour. I included photos because I’m a visual person and I can’t explain things without using pictures. I had a list of stories that corresponded to each slide – I love stories.
By the time presentation day arrived I was feeling much more confident – at least until I discovered that they had been unable to secure the A/V equipment that I had requested. Without pictures I anticipated having a lot of difficulty explaining things. I persevered. I still had stories.
I encouraged the audience to interrupt me if they had questions or comments. My pictures keep me focused – I arrange them so I can use them to create transitions and connections between topics. Without pictures there is no telling where I may ramble off to. At least with questions I’d be able to attempt to focus on their interests – an emergent presentation. 🙂
I talked for the full two hours. I told some of my favorite stories like the wet sock story. I missed important points that were on slides and would have connected the stories to behaviour management. I answered questions about pets, raising stick bugs, and getting fresh local produce through CSA shares – all farther off topic than I would ever wander on my own.
To the few somewhat irritated looking audience members I’d like to say I wasn’t suggesting you should start a fight club. For the children involved in that story it would have been impossible for me to ban fight club entirely – allowing fight club within acceptable boundaries was behaviour management.
I was pleased that some of the questions/comments showed that they understood at least some of what I was saying even though they couldn’t see the pictures that I could see. As I prepared for this presentation I had briefly considered rewriting my behaviour management policies. Instead, I decided that the written policies are fine the way they are – generic and a little vague.
It doesn’t help to make more rules when there is an issue – more rules just create more problems. You can’t respond the same way when the clumsy child knocks over the shelf as you do when the angry child does it. You can’t write a policy that says when this happens we will do this – period.
You need to look at the bigger picture. You need to understand why the behaviour is occurring on that particular day, with that particular child, in that particular situation – and you need to respond appropriately. That is why behaviour management isn’t about discipline or punishment or correction.
Behaviour management isn’t about responding to misbehaviour. It is getting to know the individual children, understanding development, anticipating conflicts, adapting the environment, and meeting needs in order to prevent major issues.
No, I didn’t explain my behaviour management policies in a two hour workshop. I didn’t tell anyone what they should do with their children in their environment. I just told stories about some of the children I have met, some of the issues I have encountered, some of the things I have tried, and some of the results that occurred.
Every day is different. New problems, new personalities, new interactions, new behaviours, new responses but no new rules.