Four-year-olds need their own model of behaviour management

The TES is reporting that Dr Sam Wass tells Simon Creasey that our youngest students need a bespoke style of behaviour management 

“Four-year-olds behave in a simple and honest way and they say what they think,” says Wass. “Whereas with a six-year-old, it’s very much about what do they think the acceptable thing to do is and what are the patterns of behaviour that are going to impress their friends?”

“When something naughty happens and the teacher comes into the classroom and asks ‘Who did this?’, a four- to five-year-old will almost always give an honest answer. But seven-, eight- or nine-year-old children become fascinated with the idea [of lying]. Once they discover that they can tell a lie to protect the group, they are obsessed about it and they spend ages planning what they will tell the teacher when they come back into the room.”

“When you see a four- or five-year-old who is not sharing a toy, often it’s not because they don’t understand how to do it,” says Wass. “Rather, it’s because emotion regulation and keeping control of yourself when you are in a bad mood is a real challenge for younger children.” 

“It’s very tempting to treat that child as if they have been naughty – as if they know what they’re doing and they are doing it very deliberately to annoy the other child or the adult – so you [the teacher] tell off the child and sometimes raise your voice,” Wass explains. “But all of the research suggests that the most common reason why a child would fail to share a toy is because they are upset about something else or they are in a bad mood or they are feeling tired and emotional.

“If a child is feeling tired and emotional, going up and telling off that child is almost always an ineffective way of disciplining that child because it’s just going to make that child more upset, whereas empathising with that child, saying to that child ‘I can see it’s very upsetting, I can see you’re tired, I can see you’re in a bad mood…’ is almost a more effective way of helping a child regulate that behaviour.”

More at: Four-year-olds need their own model of behaviour management

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