Preschool Behavior Management Techniques

Poorly behaved students can cause preschool teachers stress and burnout, resulting in high turnover rates.  That’s why adopting effective behavior management techniques is crucial for your program’s success (and for you and your staff’s sanity).

But, when it comes to establishing preschool behavior management techniques, figuring out what to do and when to do it can be tricky — especially when you’ve got a room full of crying kids.

We’re LifeCubby, the No. 1 childcare management software and the only one designed by an actual center owner. Our staff includes several former early childhood pros who know firsthand what goes into creating an effective preschool behavior management strategy.

They’ve taken that knowledge and condensed it into eight preschool behavior management tips that can help turn your classroom into a peaceful one in no time.

1. Create Clear Guidelines with Your Students in Mind

Important behavior management techniques include setting expectations for your students from the beginning. Create rules for each age group, keeping in mind that younger students might have a harder time sitting still for long periods of time, and older students might find it more difficult to work next to each other without talking. When possible, try to avoid negative language in your rules, opting for lines like “Be respectful” over “Don’t be rude.”

Once you’ve created a set of rules and consequences for your program, sit down with your students to go over them and ensure they understand each one. If you’re looking to really engage your students as one of your preschool behavior management strategies, ask them if there are any rules or guidelines they think would be important to add.

2. Opt for Positive Language

So, you’ve set your rules and now Sally is starting to break one — how do you react? Start by responding with positive words that focus on what the student can do rather than what they can’t. For example, if your student is playing with their blocks rather than joining the class for circle time, ask them to join the circle rather than stop what they’re doing.

Negative Example: “Stop playing with those blocks.”

Positive Example: “Will you come sit with the rest of the class?

By opting for positive language, you’re teaching your students how they should act, rather than how they shouldn’t.

3. Acknowledge Good Behavior

Equally as important as pointing out when a student is breaking a rule is pointing out when a student is perfectly following one in preschool behavior management strategies. By calling out good behavior, you’re making it easier for your students to envision the type of behavior they should then emulate. As you call out good behavior, make sure to be as specific as possible. Rather than giving a blanket “good job,” let the student know what it is exactly that’s good about their behavior. This will help ensure they continue to do it in the future. Praising your students also has an added benefit of boosting their self-esteem and confidence.

4. Use Visual Aids

Children are visual learners, so a great preschool behavior management practice is to use visual aids to help them better understand classroom rules and guidelines. In addition to photos highlighting students demonstrating good behavior, you can also use visual cards to help demonstrate what students should do throughout the day. By hanging a sign above the sink showing how to best wash your hands, you’re empowering your students to mirror what they see — and follow your rules in the process. Having visual cards that represent toy sharing can also prove to be an important staple in the classroom, as they can help cut down on playtime tantrums. If you’re looking for pre-made cards to use in your classroom, we recommend the ones available through Teachers Pay Teachers.

5. Add Play to the Schedule — and Get Involved

Many tantrums are the result of pent-up energy, so be sure to schedule adequate playtime as part of each day’s routine — and don’t be afraid to add more if the students look like they need it. Make a point to participate in playtime when you can, following your kiddos’ leads. Whether it’s pretending to be part of their lion pack or pretending to cook with them in their plastic kitchen, playtime can be a great time to form connections with your students and show you genuinely care. When your students feel a connection with you, they’ll be more likely to listen to what you have to say.

6. Include Social Skills in Your Curriculum

Just like your students rely on you to teach them their ABC’s, they also rely on you to teach them important social skills. To promote preschool behavior management, dedicate one circle time a week to focusing on positive behavior, including lessons on topics like empathy, sharing and kindness. Find printouts (like this free one) that focus on managing and expressing emotions to help your students learn more about the topic. Finally, include good behavior-themed books in your weekly storytime.

7. Plan Out Transition Time

Most challenging behaviors happen when students are transitioning from one activity to another. Excellent behavior management techniques to help prevent them include having, a solid plan in place for transitioning and stick to it every day. Giving kids a two-minute warning before the next activity can also help cut down on tantrums as a result of leaving an activity. You can also turn transition time into an activity itself by singing songs, yelling chants, or doing something similar (here’s some examples).

8. Get Families Engaged

Behavior management techniques are most effective when they’re not just limited to what happens in the classroom. Keep in contact with families to learn more about what’s going on at home and use that information to glean insight about any outbursts in class. Alert families if you notice an uptick in bad behavior in the classroom and work with them to ensure the student is getting the attention and help they need.

Don’t have an easy way to connect with families about student behavior? LifeCubby’s easy-to-use childcare management software can help! Whether it’s in-app messaging, morning intake questions, or behavior logs, our app is packed with tools that make behavior management a breeze. Click here to schedule a demo and see for yourself.