Modeling Appropriate Behavior for Children

Behavior Management Classroom Management Strategies
photo ©2009 Jose Kevo, Flickr

Did you know that one of the most powerful behavior management tools you have at your disposal is yourself? Whether you realize it or not, your students are watching and learning from how you conduct yourself when interacting with others {or even yourself}, when confronted with stressful and unexpected situations, and when handling conflict.

Even though verbal cues can have a similar impact and are highly important for helping students know what behaviors are expected of them, children naturally make sense of the world around them through their senses, learning by seeing and hearing, and often imitate actions and attitudes they've observed.

Modeling appropriate behavior for children is essential to help facilitate a successful learning environment and socially successful students. It is also important to note that having a behavioral “double standard” can be a source of confusion in the classroom. 

Jason and Bridgette are building a block tower. Tony, in his exuberance to join in the fun, rushes over and accidentally knocks the tower to the floor. Jason and Bridgette are furious, telling Tony that “he's ruined everything” and can't play with them because he'll “just wreck it”. Tony is hurt and comes to you for help. As their teacher, you might implore Jason and Bridgette to think about how they would like to be treated. You may tell Jason and Bridgette that it's unfair to assume that Tony meant to destroy their hard work, telling him to go away and not giving him a chance to explain or apologize. You might have the trio talk it out, inviting Tony to tell Jason and Bridgette that he thought their tower was cool and he's sorry for not being careful around it, as well as allowing Jason and Bridgette to share how disappointed they were when their tower was knocked over while recognizing that Tony's actions were not intentional.

Consider the trio's confusion when, later that week, a classmate {known to be rowdy} spills paint on the rug and, instead of allowing her to explain what happened, you get exasperated and immediately pull her from the activity to sit at the corner desk and do some quiet work. You simply assume, since there has been a pattern of this type of behavior, that she was horsing around and caused the paint to spill. You've left no room for explanation - no room for her to say it was an accident or own up to a mistake - and no room for an apology.

When your own behavior in the classroom is inconsistent with the attitudes and actions you expect from your students, it not only causes confusion, but often diminishes your authority in the eyes of your students and can lead to more behavioral issues.

Teaching is stressful and, being human, you won't be able to respond to every situation perfectly. However, knowing that you have 26 to 30 pairs of impressionable little {or not-so-little} eyes on you every day, makes it imperative that you do your best to model the appropriate attitudes and actions needed to create a successful learning environment.