Provider Tips

Need a quick refresher on handling situations that arise during your busy day?  Maybe one of these short information sheets will help! 


Making Rules Clear and Consistent

  • Decide what your rules are.
  • Adapt your rules to each child's needs and abilities—they needn't be the same for everyone, and you can help each child understand the fairness in this.
  • Make sure you and the parent agree.
  • Tell your child what the rule is, with words, tone of voice, face and gestures.
  • Expect the child to try you again.
  • Respond the same way each time. Any variation makes the child curious to see what will happen next time.
  • Expect the child's new abilities to take you by surprise.
  • Plan on reassessing your rules and expectations regularly. As the child grows, you will need to adjust some of these.

Misbehavior as an Opportunity to Teach Self-Discipline

  • Observe the child's non-verbal behavior to see how badly he already feels about what he's done.
  • If he already knows that he's done something wrong, and feels guilty about it, then he's already begun to learn his lesson.
  • When they are too hard to bear, guilty feelings are at risk of being covered over with denial. Don't push the child so far that he can't face what he has done. Instead, commend him for the bravery it takes to face one's mistakes: "I can see you feel awful about what you did. You know I don't want to make you feel worse than you do already." He's likely to be surprised by words like these, and will now be open to listening.
  • If you need to, you can make sure he understands what he's done by asking him to tell you. His words will be worth a lot more than yours, and you'll be able to clarify any misunderstanding you hear.
  • Decide upon a consequence that is closely related to the misdeed, and that allows the child to make reparations: "You're going to have to make a nice card for him to say how sorry you are."
  • Make sure he understands the importance of apologies and reparation, and that he feels forgiven. "Do you need a hug?"

From "Discipline, The Brazelton Way" - T. Berry Brazelton

Challenging Behavior

The Value of Real Work with Children Exhibiting Challenging Behavoir

Children who exhibit challenging behavior:
  • Appeared to have a tremendous amount of energy
  • Appeared to have limited social skills such as sharing and cooperating
  • Stormed through the classrooms destroying everything they touched
  • Didn't recognize social cues the other children exhibited
  • Appeared to be lacking in self-worth
  • Seemed to lack respect for authority figures, property, and other children
  • Always took away from the environment
  • Rarely contributed

When asked to help clean the block area, they walked or ran away. When finishing an art project, the art area was a disaster. Meal and snack times turned into stressful situations for everyone. It seemed other children and teachers either cleaned up for the wayward child or power struggles ensued.

How can we give these children a sense of belonging in our world? How can we corral the extra energy?

One solution is to provide opportunities for these children to become valued members of our child care society by doing real work. Real work consists of jobs that mean something to other people. Real work has a purpose to it. Real work means making the community where one lives a better place. Jobs such as sweeping the classroom floor, washing windows, dusting furniture, and sweeping sidewalks benefit other people.

Many times angry children have excessive energy. Using the energy constructively helps a child channel all of the energy into being helpful. Depending on the child and the situation, choices might be offered, and the child allowed to pick what would help them get their body in control. By performing these jobs, the children can begin to have positive experiences. They can begin to feel better about themselves and this can transfer to better connections in their own world. Order and organization on the outside can bring a sense of control with their emotions on the inside.

From "The Value of Real Work With Children Exhibiting Challenging Behavior" by Linda Ranson Jacobs. Exchange Magazine, January/February, 2006.

Conflicts with Parents

There are a number of specific strategies to use when dealing with parents that will empower parents and diffuse a tense situation.

  • Recognize and acknowledge the problem. Often, we tend to ignore problems until they reach a crisis point. For example, when a parent gets into the habit of picking up their child late from child care, we need to address it before it crosses our comfort zone; otherwise we might handle the situation rashly or unprofessionally.
  • Seeking space. When a parent is intimidating or potentially aggressive, it's a good idea to choose a space where teachers have a natural advantage; advantage comes from a familiar environment and/or the proximity of support available there.
  • Being professional. Being professional has many faces to it, but the most important is being respectful. Sometimes a parent has a demand that you can't satisfy. For example, sometimes a parent has an issue with another child or family in the program and wants you to disenroll that child. In this case, you acknowledge their concerns and explain how decisions like this are made in your program. You can be respectful and firm about your policies at the same time.
  • Creating equality. Unfortunately, parents often treat early childhood professionals disrespectfully and try to dominate the situation. When you maintain eye contact and show respect and confidence, you are creating a feeling of equality, which the parent will come to recognize. This is a good strategy to use when working with parents who like to argue over myriad minor issues as a way of exerting control.
  • Avoiding blame. When dealing with parents who are upset, it's important to listen to them and acknowledge their feelings. This strategy helps teachers identify parents' fears, as well as their real concerns hidden under their angry outbursts. Once you figure out the problem, you can name it and then determine how to resolve it.
  • Staying focused on the problem. The willingness to solve the problem is very crucial. Sometimes, a parent is uncomfortable bringing up issues. But teachers might be able to recognize those. Unaddressed concerns and issues, however minor they are, can result in real pain later.

As early childhood educators, we usually see ourselves as nurturing, kind people, and generally don't like confrontations. To stay in our comfort zone, we might avoid situations that need to be addressed. Avoiding situations that demand our attention can make us less effective in our jobs and ultimately impacts the quality of our relationships with others and the quality of our program. Learning how to handle our emotions and address the needs of parents who come to us for help is one way that we demonstrate our professionalism and commitment to the children we serve.

From "Stepping Out of our Comfort Zone" by Madhavi Sudarsana. Exchange Magazine, March/April 2010

Father Involvement

In many child care programs, father involvement is still not on a par with that of mothers. For these programs, parent typically means mother. There are a host of possible reasons for this difference, including fathers' work schedules, a belief that child care is a mother's domain, and father feeling unwelcome or out of place in the child care setting.

Since engaging fathers in their child's care can be challenging, why do it? Because fathers—and men—are an important part of a child's world. Fathers interact with children differently than mothers. They tend to engage in more physically stimulating and unpredictable play. This type of play can help children develop independence, self-regulation, gross motor skills, and problem-solving skills.

Try this:

  • Focus on one or two fathers you feel comfortable with or whom you see on a regular basis. Ask them for ideas on what the program can do to be more father-friendly. Then plan activities around fathers' interests. For example, one program invited a local motorcycle dealership to host a motorcycle "petting zoo".
  • Actively recruit male staff members for infant/toddler classrooms. Recognize the important role that all male employees (in administration, maintenance, or other roles) play. Seeing other men working in a child care setting goes a long way in making fathers feel comfortable and welcome.
  • Welcome dads, addressing them by name. Share the same information with them that you would with mothers. Be sure to tell fathers what they're doing right.
  • Invite fathers to share their hobbies, skills, or information about their jobs with the children, display images of fathers in the classroom. Include stories about fathers and a range of family types in your book choice.
  • Set up volunteer roles outside of the typical workday. For example, plan a Saturday Gardening Day when fathers can help plant flower and vegetable plants at the center.
  • Host a monthly Mom's Morning Out, when fathers and children come in on a Saturday morning for a group activity (perhaps led by volunteer instructors from a local children's gym). A breakfast event or a Dinner with Dad, held at the center or family child care home, can also work well.
  • Encourage staff to expand their language in the classroom beyond just fathers to include father figures such as grandfathers, uncles, cousins, neighbors, and even a "man who is important to or cares about you."
  • Offer problems to solve. Near the front door, post a few projects the program would like help with, such as mulching the center's garden or building a new sandbox. One program that used this approach had a father with woodworking skills build a toddler-sized picnic table for the playground.
  • Involve men in the program infrastructure. Invite fathers to be involved in the child care steering committee and/or advisory board. Ensure that goals around father involvement are included in the mission and vision of the program.

From "Celebrating Fathers as a Resource in Early Child Care Settings" by Rebecca Parlakian and J. Michael Rovaris. Young Children, September, 2009.

Helping Children Play Together

Research shows that positive social skills increase a child's readiness for and success in school. Studies identify a number of social emotional skills and abilities that help new kindergartners be successful:

  • Confidence
  • The ability to develop good relationships with peers
  • Concentrating on and persisting with challenging tasks
  • Attending and listening to instructions
  • Being able to solve social problems
  • Effectively communicate emotions

Tips for Enhancing Positive Peer Interactions

Physical Environment

  • Set clear boundaries between learning centers.
  • Make sure there are enough centers to allow the children opportunities for social interaction.
  • Offer materials that are motivating, novel, and culturally sensitive.
  • Select materials that are relevant to children's needs, interests, and lives.
  • Include materials and activities that promote social interaction.
  • Give children ideas for using the materials or suggest ways to engage in an activity (“One of you might be the cook, and someone else might be the server.”).
  • Provide visual cues in the environment that support and promote social interaction.

Social Environment

  • Take children's characteristics into consideration when grouping children.
  • Consider the number of children in each group or center to maximize social interaction.
  • Pair socially competent children with shy or less socially skilled children.
  • Give children with limited social skills many opportunities to interact with others.

Teaching Strategies

  • Implement social skill instructions in large group, small group, and one-on-one formats as appropriate.
  • Use strategies such as modeling, prompting, and role-playing.
  • Give children positive feedback for engaging in healthy social interactions.
  • Share information about fostering social interaction with family members.

From "Helping Children Play and Learn Together" by Michaelene M. Ostrosky and Hedda Meadan. Young Children, January, 2010.

Rough and Tumble Play

There are many fears and misperceptions surrounding this rough, big-body play that children seem to crave. Many people fear that play-fighting or rough and tumble play is the same as real fighting. There is also a fear that this rough play will become real fighting if allowed to continue. Most of all, though, parents and teachers fear that during the course of rough and tumble plan a child may be hurt. To provide for and allow children to play rough without injury, teachers need to understand how rough play is different from aggression, as well as how to offer it in a safe and supportive environment.

By definition, rough and tumble play is when children willingly do the following:

  • Laugh
  • Run
  • Jump
  • Tag
  • Wrestle
  • Chase
  • Flee

When children are being aggressive, though, they typically show the following behaviors:

  • Fixate
  • Frown
  • Hit
  • Push
  • Take-and-grab

Social and emotional domains are not the only developmental areas positively affected by this play. When children use this big-body play, the intense physical exertion of rough and tumble play also supports cardiovascular health. Through their involvement, young children get the moderate to vigorous physical activity needed for optimum physical health.

Because the preschool period is a critical period for children to develop both physically and emotionally, rough and tumble play for preschoolers is invaluable.

From "Rough and Tumble Play 101" by Frances Carlson. Exchange Magazine, July/August 2009

Teaching Children Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand another's perspective and to consider it before acting. This is a difficult skill for a young child who is egocentric—in the “Me!” stage. The ability to feel empathy is directly related to the ability to form relationships. Relationships give children the feeling of security, which allows them to feel safe and move beyond their own needs. Children learn to care about others when they experience the feeling of being cared for themselves.

There are many benefits to teaching empathetic behavior and strengthening children's moral development:

  • Positive interactions among children: As children gain the ability to understand their own emotions and feelings, they can better understand the feelings of another. Attainment of these skills will create a more cohesive classroom environment with less challenging behaviors.
  • Strong interpersonal skills that help children to be successful later in life: As children fain the ability to put themselves in another's shoes, they will have the ability to get along well with others. This skill will later affect a person's ability to get a job, build relationships, and communicate their needs appropriately.
  • Getting along with other builds self-esteem: Positive self-esteem strengthens a child's ability to feel good about the choices that they make. Children will build strength and confidence in who they want to be and have the ability to allow others to be who they want to be.
  • Beginning to understand social responsibilities: As children gain the skills of empathic behavior, they will recognize how their actions affect other people and events. This presents an opportunity to teach children how to care for others, plants and animals, and the environment.

Strategies for Teaching Empathy

  • Have live plants and/or a garden for the children to care for. Children can work together to create and care for living plants. Children will learn quickly how their care is required to keep the plants alive.
  • By having a pet in the classroom for the children to care for, the children will learn the responsibility of providing food and water for the pet's survival. They will also be able to build a bond or relationship as they care for the pet. If the children are too young of unable to care for a living creature or there is a fear that the animal may be harmed, a stuffed animal can be introduced as a new member of the class. A stuffed bear needs love and caring, too. The children can name the class mascot and care for him during class and on weekends. A journal can be kept of the pet's weekend adventures. Children will begin to think about another's feelings as they imagine what their pet was thinking and feeling.
  • Talk with the children in the classroom about those who are absent. Where are they? Why are they not at school? Are they sick? Are they visiting a friend? Will they be missed at school? What fun activities will they be missing while they are absent?
  • Provide ample opportunities for children to discuss their emotions. Supply children with the vocabulary to sue in explaining their feelings. Discuss all feelings equally. Remember there are no wrong feelings. But there are appropriate ways to express feelings.
  • Read books that lead to discussions about emotions. Include books that lead to discussions about some of the more uncommon feelings (for example, jealousy or envy) or those that may be difficult to discuss (for example, embarrassment or shame).
  • Provide role modeling opportunities. It is important to teach appropriate behaviors when children are not angry. When a child is overwhelmed by their emotions, it is difficult for them to apply reason or to think beyond themselves. Discussing scenarios during small group activity time gives children the opportunity to practice skills and use their reasoning abilities.
  • Discuss facial expressions. Young children are just beginning to learn how to interpret facial expressions.  It is difficult for a child to recognize how their actions are affecting their playmates, and because children do not have the expressive language that an adult has, it is not until the other child hits them or cries out that they realize that they realize that they were bothering her.
  • The mind and body are connected and when children feel emotion it affects their body sensations (for example, anger and embarrassment feel "hot" and happiness feels "bubbly"). Talking to children about these sensations will help them understand and recognize how their bodies are affected by emotion and to gain better control.

From "Teaching Empathy" by Denise Cavner. Exchange Magazine, January/February 2008

Empathy is tied to development and requires the ability to understand the world beyond oneself. For the first year and a half of life, children understand the world only as it relates to them. If they are hungry, hot, soiled, or in pain, they cry; and, depending upon the responses they get, they learn how to respond. This innate aptitude to replicate behaviors is wired into our brains through "mirror neurons", which predispose use to repeat what we see and experience.

Eventually, children learn that there are others out there. And, surprise—those others can experience pain (when I poke her she cried); fear (we both scream when the door slams); or hunger (I can't have all the cookies for myself). As young children navigate this new world of "others", there are many opportunities to encourage empathy.

"Mary is sad. She is crying. It hurt her when you hit her with the sand funnel." Such experiences, repeated over and over again, usher in empathy. As the needs and emotions of others are named and explained, and children are invited to respond in the caring ways they've experienced, empathy grows.

From "Nurturing Compassion" by Roslyn Duffy. Exchange Magazine, May/June 2009.

Teaching Children Self-Reliance

Every human being is born with the potential to become the world's most capable creature, not with the capabilities themselves. Unlike the amoeba, which is capable of functioning at its full potential from creation, humans acquire their capabilities primarily through apprenticeship: young human beings learn from those who have preceded them. When this apprenticeship is adequate, their toolboxes of life, which were empty at birth, are filled with the essential tools for effective living. In times of change, these tools, which we call life resources, are particularly critical. For convenience we usually refer to these assets as "the Significant Seven." Ironically, researchers initially identified them almost by their absence. Insight dawned slowly as we reviewed research on those young people most likely to become clients of the criminal justice system, human services system, and social welfare system and those who failed to realize potential in school. Many of these people, we discovered, were those most poorly developed in these seven areas. Conversely, people who are living effectively and who are outstanding in many walks of life were characterized by unusual strength and adequacy in the Significant Seven.

Children and adults who are most at risk in behavioral health areas such as drugs, early pregnancy, delinquency, gangs, chronic academic problems, and so forth, are characteristically weak and/or inadequate in several if not all of the Significant Seven. Interestingly, research shows that people who have been living effectively but who become chemically dependent for any period of time normally regress in most of these areas. Once they are detoxified, the recovery process seeks to strengthen and/or rebuild the Significant Seven to help them maintain their recovery and begin to grow again. In fact, it might be said that all children are born at risk to problems of dependency. The perceptions and skills that are necessary for self-reliance and effective living require development and maintenance.

Significan Seven

Universal research reveals that children who become successful adults possess the following abilities.

  • I am confident of my personal capability when faced with challenges.
  • I believe I am personally significant and make meaningful contributions.
  • I have a positive influence over my life; I take responsibility for my choices.
  • I have strong intrapersonal skills and I manage my emotions through self-awareness and self-discipline.
  • I have strong interpersonal skills and I am able to effectively communicate, negotiate, and empathize with others.
  • I am able to adapt with flexibility and integrity, I have strong systemic skills.
  • I have well developed judgment skills and able to make decisions with integrity.

Now consider the characteristics of low-risk individuals - people unlikely to fall into the known problem areas and likely to prove themselves successful, productive, capable human beings. They have developed the following:

  • Perception of personal capabilities - capable of facing problems and learning through challenges and experiences
  • Perceptions of personal significance - capable of contributing in meaningful ways and believing that life has meaning and purpose
  • Perceptions of personal influence over life - capacity to understand that one's actions and choices influence one's life and hold one accountable
  • Intrapersonal skills - capacity to manage emotions through self-assessment, self-control and self-discipline
  • Interpersonal skills - capacities necessary to deal effectively with others through communication, cooperation, negotiation, sharing, empathizing, and listening
  • Systemic skills - capacity for responding to the limits, consequences, and interrelatedness of human and natural systems with responsibility, adaptability, flexibility, and integrity
  • Judgment skills - capacity for making decisions and choices that reflect moral and ethical principles, wisdom, and values

A primary goal of parenting and teaching processes is that of strengthening these areas so that our young people can take on life with an adequate base of these personal resources and assets.

To comprehend the critical importance of this task, understand that young people who believe they are incapable and insignificant and that whatever happens is beyond their control tend to live life by default and reaction. They are generally exceptionally vulnerable sexually, chemically, socially, legally, and/or academically.

However, young people who strongly believe they are capable of initiating learning and change in their lives have significance, and that no matter what circumstances they encounter, they have the capacity within themselves to influence how they respond and live in the face of them usually live by intent and action and are therefore much less vulnerable.

It is possible to help people in the first category to progress to the second at any time in life, but the younger they are when they develop a strong base, the greater the lifelong benefits.

From "The Significant Seven" by H. Stephen Glenn and Dr. Jane Nelsen Ed.D. Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World

Teaching Children Cooperation

The key to helping children foster friendships in the preschool environments involves teaching them to cooperate with peers, role playing and modeling by adults, and cultivating environments that foster the development of friendship skills.

In order to help preschoolers learn to get along with each other, child care providers should first take into consideration children's interactions when grouping children together. Sue Adair, Director of Education at Goddard Systems, Inc, recommends that child care leaders encourage small group interaction, and pair socially competent children with shy or less socially skilled children.

Susan Cooper, educator, author, and member of Applied Scholastic International, suggests that several times each day educators stage activities in which children need to communicate with other children. Instead of the educator asking questions, he or she should have a child ask a question and then relay the answer. The more often children can interact with children and learn communication skills, the better chances of other social skills building on this basic foundation.

Dr. Susan Bartell, child psychologist and author of The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask [Sourcebook, 2010], offers the following quick tips for teaching children to get along with peers:

  • Role model empathy and cooperation in adult friendships and relationships (kids learn from watching).
  • When playing with children, don't always let them win. This teaches frustration tolerance and the ability to play with others in all circumstances.
  • Be prepared to intervene and help kids negotiate difficult situations, they aren't old enough yet to work it out themselves. Young children need guidance. They need an adult to give them the words and to teach them how to see the other person's point of view.

Child care providers can implement activities and prepare environments in order to enhance children's learning of friendship skills. Begin with scheduling time each day for free play. "This is not free for all play but an organized time each day for children to play with children. This gives them a chance to interact and practice [friendship] skills," says Cooper. However, there must be close supervision. The child care provider should always emphasize cooperation and facilitate it. Children can misinterpret the skill set, so an adult needs to be there to get it back on track quickly.

Teachers and educators can provide an environment that is set up with defined spaces for learning centers so that children have clear boundaries when playing. "Make sure there are enough centers to accommodate all children, offer items that promote social play, such as dress clothes, puppets, and figures. Make sure that there are enough for every child to carry out their plans for play and therefore, do not get frustrated waiting for what they want to use," says Adair.

Preschool teachers and daycare center educators can help nurture friendship by modeling the good communication and listening skills. In addition early childhood educators must show empathy, sharing and consideration

From "Suite101: Teaching Preschoolers about Cooperation: Foster Friendship Skills in the Daycare Setting"