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Thinking Beyond Challenging Behavior
March 6, 2023
Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.
-Lady Bird Johnson, 1912-2007, US First Lady

Is there such a thing as adults tattling on children? That Early Childhood Nerd Heather Bernt-Santy would say yes, and she'd like us all to stop doing it. When she and Mike Huber were Engaging Exchange guests last year, I was struck by Huber's remark that perhaps we need to think of challenging behaviors as behaviors that challenge us, and while we're at it, consider what adult behaviors challenge children. For both Huber and Bernt-Santy, observing children's behavior is a chance to reflect on our own behavior, including how we share children's behavior with their families.

In the Exchange Reflections, Quit Tattling on ChildrenBernt-Santy writes, "We are taught that sharing behavior reports will help us to build relationships with families, to engage families in their children’s success and to collaborate with families. What if instead we are disrupting relationships, undermining our own expertise, or potentially harming children?"

Instead, Bernt-Santy offers, "If we are engaged in authentic observation and interaction with children each day, when a parent asks, 'Was she good today?' we can simply turn the conversation. I like to have a simple story ready to share. 'Well, she spent a lot of the morning really engaged with our sensory table,' and then share a few details of what we observed.”




Observing interests and framing behavior as a developmental skill provides a pathway to communicating with families about the ways their children are learning and growing, even through conflict and challenges.



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Comments (6)

Displaying 5 of 6 Comments   [ View all ]
Kirsten Haugen · March 08, 2023
Eugene, OR, United States

Oh, thank you all for your responses to this message. It means a lot to me personally to know you are all out there being with and for children. As always, each of your individual feedback expands our collective thinking. I have more in store for Exchange Every Day on behavior, including Mona Delahooke's explanation of top-down and bottom-up behaviors. What other behavioral resources or approaches are you finding helpful? What would you like to see more of in Exchange Every Day?

Andrea Amari Dekker · March 06, 2023
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona
Tucson, AZ, United States

This is brilliant! I am struck by the comment "...and while we're at it, consider what adult behaviors challenge children." I never thought of this spin on the behavior management issue! Since the behaviors we find challenging are usually a "me problem," I would love to help teachers change their thinking (and paradigm) and ask themselves what it is about THEIR behavior that might be lending itself to the issue at hand.

Just brilliant.

Terry A Thomas · March 06, 2023
Easton, PA, United States

I have been linked to Exchange for many years and have often thought about sharing my thoughts and opinions but have never done so until now. I taught in higher education for 16 years and during that time and before when running ECE programs, I adopted this practice. I recognized early in in my career that the expectation for children has to be appropriate based on where they are developmentally. Unfortunately, most adults use the "adult behavior yardstick" to "measure" children's behavior. Clearly an inappropriate measure. Loved the article....thanks......couldn't agree more.

Genie Saffren · March 06, 2023
Retired UCLA Early Care & Education, Fernald Center
Los Angeles, CA, United States

I would also add that when a parent asks if their child was « good » today or any type of evaluative question regarding their child to please include the child in the discussion. If adults are talking over the top of the child’s head about him/her, it’s disrespectful, ignoring their existence. The teacher or director should bend down and ask, « Susie, what do you think? How was your day? »
That would be an authentic interaction with that child and her parent and go a long way to building a positive relationship with both.

Francis Wardle · March 06, 2023
University of Phoenix/ Red Rocks Community College
Denver, Colorado, United States

This reminds me of the parent- teacher conferences I had while my son was attending high school. The sessions were always dominated by complains by the teachers about my son. It became so bad that I stopped attending. Now is he a successful adult who graduated from college, lived in Paris for 8 years, and has had successes in teaching and nursing.

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