Question: What are the Main Goals of Behavior Management?
Past the short term goal of keeping the peace, what are our long term goals for the children in our care? Do we want children to learn to do what they are told, or to learn to tell themselves what to do? Do we want children to behave because an adult is watching, or to develop the skills to control their own behavior? As important care givers in many children's lives, we have the power to influence what kind of people they will become. But how? How do we help children learn to take some of the responsibility for their behavior? The answer is both simple and complex: let them have some say in the matter.
The Simple and the Complex:
It is not difficult to see why children need to make some of their own decisions in order to begin taking responsibility for their actions. Children who are always told what to do learn to do as they are told. They become accustomed to an adult making the decisions. Children who are always told what to do never get the chance to learn to tell themselves what to do. The difficult part is figuring out how to let children make some of their own decisions without allowing them to take over. Fortunately there are ways to give children some responsibility while still being able to guide and direct them. When someone is acting inappropriately, there are ways to handle the situation that not only solve the immediate problem, but also help the child improve his behavior in the future. One such technique asks that we revisit a common practice: giving children time outs.
Rethinking Time Out
Placing a child who is disrupting an activity in time out is a practice used by many providers. It accomplishes two goals: giving the child a chance to stop acting out and separating him from others so that they can continue their activities. However, time out has been criticized as being nothing more than a punishment, designed to make the child uncomfortable so that he will behave better. Some children seem to act out so much that teachers end up giving them time outs all day long. Traditional time outs do minimize the amount other children are affected by a disruptive child. The problem is that they do very little to help children improve their behavior in the future. To make time outs tools for building self control we need to change how they are done in a small but important way.
A New Kind of Time Out
Despite your best efforts to redirect a disruptive child, there may be times when he has to be separated from the larger group. To make the time out a tool for building self control, let him be the one who decides when to come back to the group. That's right, the child, not the teacher decides when he is ready to cooperate and return to the activity. It is his responsibility to regain control of his behavior. Ending time outs this way, sends a message to everyone in the class that it is their job to learn to tell themselves what to do, rather than waiting to be told by a teacher. Let's look at an example of this new twist to time outs: You are reading a story to your group of three- and four-year-olds. A child begins wiggling around and talking to her neighbor. You first ignore the behavior to see if she will stop herself. You then remind her that it is time to listen quietly to the story. When this does not work, you ask her if she needs to leave the group. She replies that she does not, but soon begins acting out once again. You respond by telling her to go and sit in a chair until she is ready to be a part of the group. She leaves and sits down in a chair. Your co-worker talks to the child to make sure she knows what she was doing wrong and reminds her to return to the group only when she is ready to listen. A few minutes later, the child comes back and this time listens quietly to the rest of the story. She has taken one small step towards taking responsibility for her own behavior.
Tips for Making Time Outs Work