The Greatest of These Is Love

Last week, Joye Smith and I attended a conference titled “Helping Families Heal.” The presenter, Heather T. Forbes, LCSW, prescribes a unique approach to helping children heal from traumatic experiences. Forbes said that truly helping a child is not about fixing behavior. Rather than focusing on logic and consequences, she recommends seeking understanding and connecting with children to help them regulate their own behavior.

This has great implications for teachers of all preschoolers. When you are dealing with discipline issues in your classroom, instead of using time outs or trying to use logic, try these practical tips for helping preschoolers improve their ability to self-regulate their behavior:

  • Maintain structure. Structure reduces the unexpected, and it gives preschoolers a sense of safety and security.
  • If a preschooler begins misbehaving, remain calm and actively listen. Hear what your preschooler is saying. Be attentive to his emotions. Explore why the behavior is occurring. Are you angry because . . . ? Or, could it be that you are angry because . . . ?
  • Move closer and use a gentle touch. Sometimes a gentle rub on the back or placing your hand gently over her hand will help soothe a preschooler who is having a behavior issue.
  • Try soothing the preschooler verbally. Tell her you want to help her. Ask yourself where the preschooler’s stress is coming from. Could it be that your environment is too noisy, too chaotic, or too unstructured?
  • Give preschoolers words for their emotions: Are you mad? Are you sad? Are you scared? Then, try to help them determine what brought out that emotion.
  • Provide activities that will help preschoolers feel successful. Open-ended art activities and block activities are especially effective as they give a preschooler the opportunity to use his creativity and feel productive.
  • Plan your transitional times carefully, so that preschoolers know what is about to happen and when it is going to happen. Many preschoolers do not adjust well to change or to the unexpected. If you are moving from the interest areas to group time, try counting down. “We are going to move to Group Time in two minutes, so begin getting ready . . . Okay, in one minute, we will be going to Group Time.”
  • If you consistently have issues with a child, ask yourself if your expectations are reasonable. Ask yourself if you are providing an environment where your preschoolers know that they are loved.

As I was processing all of the information that we received during this conference, I began to think about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (NIV1).

And, there it is. Your key for solving discipline issues with preschoolers: Love, love, and more love.

1Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.TM

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