Displaying children’s behavior charts is risky business!

In the latest Bam Radio interview titled, “The hidden side effects of classroom management systems,” It was mentioned that displaying behavior charts on the wall of your classroom “is risky business.”  There are many reasons why this is risky business and I’m going to give you a few that comes from the interview as well as alternative approaches to behavior management that you might consider instead…

Stop Light Systems are Risky Business

Why is it risky business?

  • In the Bam Radio interview, Judith tells us that displaying any kind of behavior management system publicly is actually illegal. WHAT? Yep, you got it. Illegal.  This is because records of student progress whether it be academic or not are considered private information that isn’t to be shared with the public or displayed in public view.
  • A behavior management chart is essentially a progress report detailing a child’s progress on behavior. It should be a record that is only shared between teacher and child or teacher and parent. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, every child in the classroom knows who landed on the red light that day and its very possible that every parent, teacher, and administrator knows too.
  • A behavior management system, such as the stop light system or a sticker chart truly has one purpose – to control behavior. But along with a chart that everyone can see also comes public humiliation, labeling, bribing, and pressure on a child to perform.
  • “But Deborah, my students like the stop light system!” I tend to think that perhaps students get used to it and learn to roll with the punches but the reality is no one “likes” having their failures displayed for others to see. Sally elaborates in the Bam Radio interview by saying that if you were to walk into the teacher’s lounge and see a chart displaying your failure to perform on the wall, you would not be too happy about that one bit. You would have a choice to stay, leave, complain but kids are not given that choice.
  • Publicly displaying a child’s negative behavior ultimately destroys self-esteem and self-respect. It is degrading and doesn’t reflect true child development which needs to recognize all the small successes and failures that are a natural part of growing up. Growth and Development isn’t black and white or green, yellow, and red. Charts like the stop light system essentially indicates to everyone in the room that someone has failed today and there is no room for failure in this classroom or that someone has had a successful day and to be successful, you must be like everyone else.

The list really does go on and on as to why behavior management systems such as the stop light system or any other system that monitors behavior by publicly displaying progress is risky business. Be sure to listen to the Bam Radio Show for more details.

Stop Light Systems are Risky Business

Why I don’t use a behavior management system

Even with all the very good reasons shared above as to why visual behavior management systems should not be used in the classroom, I can tell you that my reason for not using one is not any of those reasons. I don’t use them because…

  • I would be terrible at it; behavior isn’t a right-or-wrong, red-yellow-green proposition. It is a learning process.
  • It doesn’t keep our classroom emotionally safe; the classroom must always be a place where children can work through issues, make mistakes, test limits and yet trust, without question, that they will be loved, supported, guided, redirected, respected, protected.
  • It doesn’t promote healthy and competent self-regulation skills; meaningful self-control and behavior management must come from somewhere deep within the child.
  • It targets the obvious but may miss the not so obvious; the problem isn’t the action being stopped with a red light that ultimately matters. It is instead  an attitude or developmental understanding that needs to be addressed in some thoughtful way so that life long habits of constructive and positive behavior can be promoted.
Building Community builds Success in Preschool!

Building Community builds Success in Preschool!

What are alternatives for behavior management?

  • For me personally, it is building a sense of community and promoting self-regulation from day one. Understanding that my role is to connect with children, to help them connect with me and each other, and through that connection we will build a safe place to play and learn together.  I will be sharing a workshop on Building Community in December (if not sooner) so be sure to check back!
  • Sally Haughey mentions on the Bam Radio interview her Safe Pockets behavior management system as an alternative approach. I haven’t read through the material but perhaps you would like to check it out. You can view an Overview of Safe Pockets here.

Self-Regulation: the #1 skill for success in school and life!

As our summer blog book study on Challenging Behaviors continues, I am thrilled to bring you a guest post written by Jenny Spencer and appreciate her for taking time out of her summer to prepare this post for all of us. You can read more about Jenny at the end of this post but let me just tell you that she knows her stuff as she travels and speaks to folks all the time about how to address challenging behaviors. So let me hand the rest of this post over to Jenny!

Self-Regulation: The #1 Skill for Success in School and Life!

Several years ago when I  came across a workshop titled “How to handle all the fussing, fighting, fits, and tantrums” I really didn’t think that I needed it.  I thought I had everything under control.  Regardless, I decided to attend.  What I learned that day was the beginning of a transformational journey both personally and professionally.  I have discovered that it wasn’t control that I needed–it was connection. Hi!  I’m Jenny Spencer and I’m thrilled to be a part of this book study!  I am sharing from one of my favorite books with you today: “Managing Emotional Mayhem The Five Steps for Self-Regulation” by Dr. Becky A. Bailey…

Self-Regulation: The #1 Skill for Success in School and Life!

Over the years I have been faced with some very challenging behaviors so I understand how hard it can be.  My hope is that this post will inspire you and that you will learn some new skills that can transform your experience with even the most difficult child.  Move with me beyond what is comfortable to what is best practice in the field of early childhood.

I wanted pink!

Imagine that you are in a classroom of 3-5 year-olds. It is snack time and you are passing out straws.  You hand a blue straw to Billy, a white one to Alyson and a yellow one to Mary. All of a sudden, Mary bursts into tears and whines, “I wanted pink!” For many early childhood educators, Mary’s cry for a pink straw triggers eye rolling, frustration and annoyance.  With a room full of children still waiting on their straws, you quickly snap back, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

What do you think about Mary’s reaction to receiving the yellow straw? Do you think she is picky? Do you think she is spoiled? Are you willing to consider something different? What if I told you Mary is not picky or spoiled?  Rather, Mary IS missing an essential life skill called SELF-REGULATION!

In today’s post, I’m going to share with you some information from Dr. Becky Bailey’s book “Managing Emotional Mayhem” that will help you begin to see behaviors like Mary’s as an opportunity to teach!  

Awareness Is Key

In order to help children regulate their behavior, we must first understand our own.  Becoming aware of how our feelings were handled, by our family of origin, gives us insight to how we currently deal with the children in our care.  Were your feelings used as teaching tools for self-regulation and problem solving? Were your feelings ignored or dismissed? Did your parents save or punish you for your upset? To gain clarity on how your feelings were handled, watch this hilarious Conscious Discipline Video: How to Go Conscious Not Crazy With Our Kids!

Let’s go back to Mary and the straw. After watching the video, you now know that saying, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset,” can be dismissive or punitive. What would this scenario look like if we used it as an opportunity to teach?

Active Calming

The first step in any discipline encounter is for the adult to breathe. Breathing disengages the stress response. By choosing to actively calm, you have a better chance of staying in the “thinking part” of your brain. This is where all of your brilliance and problem solving skills reside.

Think for a minute what behaviors really get your goose.  Perhaps whining, tattling, complaining, laziness, disrespect, not listening, irresponsibility, and silliness will get you started.  We refer to these as ourtriggers or hot spots.  Becoming aware of these triggers help you begin to manage them.  Mary isn’t making you mad, she is triggering your anger.  When you notice that you have been triggered, follow the steps in the picture below to help you get your power back by actively calming yourself.

Self-Regulation: The #1 Skill for Success in School and Life!

You could compare Active Calming to being like a Paramedic.  Imagine that you are at the scene of an accident and the paramedic comes running up to the scene all out of breath.  He begins yelling at you and saying, “What were you thinking?”  “Why weren’t you wearing your helmet?”  Perhaps he wonders, “Hmmm let me see if I can remember how to stop the bleeding.”  That wouldn’t be very helpful would it?  You want a paramedic that comes to the scene calm and ready to help.  This person has practiced the skills and has all the tools needed to be ready and available.  The same is true for teachers and parents.  We must practice the skills for Active Calming on a regular basis.  This ensures that when a conflict happens you will “arrive at the scene” ready to help.

Helping Children with DNA

Now that you have self-regulated, you are ready to coach Mary. Dr. Bailey gives us the DNA Process to bridge the gap between problems and solutions.


Describe and mirror (demonstrate) the emotional signals the child’s body and face are providing.  Always begin with the word your.

“Your arm went like this_________.” Demonstrate

“Your eyes are like this __________.” Demonstrate

As you demonstrate, the child will usually bring their gaze toward you. When they do, take a deep calming breath and soften your face.


Name the feeling you believe is being communicated.  ALL behavior is communication! Always say, “You seem ___.” Dr. Bailey suggests starting off by filling the blank with one of four primary feelings:  Happy, Sad, Angry, or Scared. “You seem angry.”


End the process by acknowledging the child’s positive intent and/or desire. Acknowledging the child’s most heartfelt wishes shows you understand.

“You wanted the pink straw.”

Does that mean you give her the pink straw?  Absolutely not!  By going through this process with her you help her become aware.  You help her notice her body signals and help yourself stay in the present moment.  This helps you access the higher centers of the brain and see the upset from the child’s point of view.

Choosing to respond to the behavior of children out of the higher centers of your brain rather than reacting out of the lower centers is self-discipline.  This helps you connect with the child in the moments of upset and teaches new skills.  Empowering yourself so you can empower children…now that’s true power, that’s Conscious Discipline®!

About Jenny Spencer
Self-Regulation: The #1 Skill for Success in School and Life! by Jenny Spencer
 Jenny was an early childhood special education teacher in the public school for 18 years and left the classroom just over a year ago to focus more on her own family and to begin the process of developing her business as a Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor.  I have met Jenny personally (we live in the same town) and can tell you that she is incredibly passionate about the work she does in early childhood education and I appreciate her so much for taking the time to share with us today!
Connect with JennyIgnite Learning
Please take the time to connect with Jenny over at her blog – Ignite Learning: Bright Ideas for Parents and Teachers
And You Can Read More!
The Five Steps for Self-Regulation by Jenny Spencer was published just yesterday as a continuation of this discussion!

Learn more about Dr. Bailey and Conscious Discipline by going to the website:  www.consciousdiscipline.com. Conscious Discipline® is a classroom management system that integrates social-emotional learning using everyday events to teach life skills. Most importantly, Conscience Discipline teaches adult’s new skills first so they can coach children effectively.

These Books and more by Dr. Becky Bailey are Available on Amazon!

Be sure to check out the other posts in our Summer Book Blog Study! See the Linky Below!!

Summer Blog Book Study: Helping preschoolers learn to resolve and manage conflict

Today is the beginning of our summer blog book study and this year, the focus of our book study is “Challenging Behaviors in the Classroom.”  If you haven’t joined us for our book study in the past couple of years, then be sure to read this post in its entirety to learn all about the book study and to get a taste of the helpful and insightful information that will be coming your way all summer long…

Summer Blog Book Study: Challenging Behaviors

There are so many different approaches towards managing challenging behaviors in a classroom setting so instead of choosing one book, each blogger in our study will be sharing insights from a behavior management style book of their choice. At the end of this post you will see a linky of each post as they go live which will help you keep up with the study as we go along…

Summer Blog Book Study: Challenging Behaviors

Helping Preschoolers Learn to Resolve and Manage Conflict

To kick off our study, I want to share a few highlights from the recent Bam Radio interview I participated in titled “Helping Preschoolers Learn to Resolve and Manage Conflict” along with an overview of the expert advice shared by the authors: Rae Pica, Karen Stephens, Sandy Heidemann, and Karen Nemeth. To listen to the interview in its entirety, click on the photo below or the links above…

Summer Blog Book Study: Challenging Behaviors

No one likes conflict

Let’s face it, no one likes dealing with conflict. Often times, adults rush in and try to solve conflicts as soon as they pop up. But the reality is, young children need to know how to work through conflicts on their own. According to Karen Stephens, not learning to resolve conflict  can lead young children towards  having a problem with over-dependance, fear of failure, isolation, withdrawal, and the effects can lead to more serious issues such as bullying or even problems that can extend all the way up into their adult years.  Although we may not like dealing with conflict, it is important to note that conflict is a natural part of play, growth, and learning for young children and we need to prepare ourselves for how to best guide children through the process of resolving conflict…

Summer Blog Book Study: Challenging Behaviors

Let’s Talk About It

There are many causes of conflict that can arise at any given moment so trying to list them all wouldn’t be possible. However, there were a few causes emphasized in the interview that I will make note of. The first one was an inability to communicate effectively. Young children are still building their library of feeling words and according to Karen Stephens, it is important to help young children learn to identify their emotions with words. Feeling statements such as “I’m confused” or “I’m frustrated” are just two examples of giving young children the words to express their emotions verbally rather than physically. Karen Nemeth stresses the importance of using body language and gestures to communicate needs and feelings. Using gestures is especially effective where you might have a language barrier between children or an inability to fully understand the speech of a particularly young child. And finally, learning to appropriately communicate feelings and emotions requires the teacher to model these ideas and not just talk about them…

Summer Blog Book Study: Challenging Behaviors


Consider the Environment

Conflict can also be a product of the environment. For example, large open spaces in your classroom will often lead to young children to getting overly excited or stimulated. Give them a large open space and most likely, they will want to run or play wild. Our experts suggested to save the large open spaces for outdoor play and divide your classroom up into centers and spaces that give children ample room to move about but not so much space that they are tempted to run freely through the classroom…

Summer Blog Book Study: Challenging Behaviors

Observing Conflict

In our interview, the experts also talked about the importance of observing conflict before jumping in and trying to solve it. Too often, we as teachers want to resolve conflict quickly. There are many reason for this. One reason may be because we don’t want our students going home telling mom or dad that they didn’t get along with others. We want everyone to alway be happy and to go home happy. Another reason is because it seems like conflict is a deterrent to the learning process but conflict actually plays a valuable role in helping young children build healthy social and emotional skill sets.  However, Sandy Heidemann reminds us that there should be boundaries in place that are unbendable such as no hitting, biting, or other physical conflict and no name calling – period.  Understanding that conflict is a part of natural growth and development will help you learn to observe the conflict and see where you need to model or teach the children to resolve their conflicts or know when the conflicts can be worked out among the children in their own way…

Summer Blog Book Study: Challenging Behaviors

A Safe Place

Often times, we think and parents think that a safe place is a place where conflict doesn’t exist. But a safe place really is about creating an environment where parents will know that you have their child’s best interest at heart and the children in your classroom will know that they are a valued member of the classroom community. Everyone involved in the child’s life needs to understand that normal conflict that occurs during play will be a part of your classroom. And because your classroom is a safe place, your students will be learning how to resolve their conflicts through healthy and peaceful strategies rather than avoiding conflicts altogether. Remember, learning to resolve natural conflicts that come up as young children interact with one another is a healthy part of social and emotional development…

Summer Blog Book Study: Challenging Behaviors

There were many more tips shared in the interview than I have shared here today so be sure to hop over to Bam Radio if you would like to hear the interview in full.  Later on in the summer, I will be bringing you insights from the book “Managing Emotional Mayhem” by Dr. Becky Bailey and “Beyond Behavior Management” by Jenna Bilmes and my fellow bloggers will be sharing other meaningful tips and suggestions on helping to address challenging behaviors from the resources they have found so be sure to stay tuned-in all summer long!


Our Next Topic 

Be sure to hop on over to Fun-A-Day on June 25, 2014 (Wednesday) and see what she has to share on her first book choice for our Challenging Behaviors Summer Blog Book Study!

Available on Amazon

See the Linky Below

After each post goes live, we will add it to the linky below so you can easily find all the posts and read them whenever you have the time. If you are viewing this post by email, you will most likely need to come to the Teach Preschool Blog to view this post in its entirety and to see the linky…

Apply for College Credits

To learn more about applying the book study towards college credits, click on the link right here!  To read the FAQ’s from Concordia University about the college credit click here!

Helping young children develop self-control

Recently, the most asked question that has come my way is “what do you do with a child who won’t behave in the classroom?” Well, to tell you the truth, this question isn’t always that simple to answer because it can depend on so many factors including the age of the child, the needs of the child, the classroom environment, the classroom schedule,  the teaching approach in the classroom and more.  But there is one strategy that should be in every teaching approach and that is the process of helping young children develop self-control.

Bam Radio Discussion

I recently participated in the Bam Radio Discussion titled “Five Ways to Get Young Children to Sit Down and Shut Up, Well Sort of” along with Rae Pica, Ellen Galinsky, and Sandra Aamodt.  In this radio show, the experts give some important insight on how to help young children develop self-control…

Yes, self-control can be taught

First of all, it is important to note that self-control can be taught in the early childhood classroom. The key is understanding what kinds of activities help promote the development of self-control and what doesn’t necessarily promote self-control.

Why teach self-control

At the beginning of this conversation, Ellen Galinski shares this research finding…

“There’s a study by Meghan McClellan that uses self-control as a very important predictor of school readiness and school success and showing that during the four year old or five year old years, if children make improvement in their self-control, then they also improve in the kinds of measures of math and literacy that they’re being assessed on.”

The value of self-control

As a teacher, it can be easy to think that the only reason for promoting self-control is so that the children in your classroom will behave. But this can be a poor reason to use as the only reason for teaching young children self-control.  Why you ask? If a child doesn’t exhibit progress in good behavior, teachers can easily give up and decide that the better approach (or easier approach) is to be strict or to take away privileges or to somehow focus on punishment rather than on growth and development.

For this reason, it is important to truly understand that the child who develops self-control will ultimately be more successful in school and home all throughout his life.  So my point here is to make sure you understand that self-control isn’t about making kids behave, it is about giving children the tools they need to guide their own behavior and as they accomplish this goal, they will be building the tools they need to be positive participants in the classroom experience.

What doesn’t promote self-control?

First of all, let’s take a look at what doesn’t promote the development of self-control.  Our experts highlight one main point on what doesn’t work…

  • Strict discipline: Strict discipline may be needed for certain occasions but strict discipline does not teach self-control. Strict discipline is about doing something because someone else told you to. Strict discipline may keep kids quiet and doing what you insist they should do but it doesn’t teach them to regulate their own behavior and to do something because they want to do it.

What does promote self-control?

The experts in this Bam Radio Show share several different strategies for helping young children develop self-control. The exciting thing about each of these strategies is that they are very doable and more than likely, already in place in your classroom.  The key is, recognizing that each of these strategies should be in action in your classroom and do indeed promote self-control…

  • Playing Games Games like ‘Red Light – Green Light’ and ‘Simon Says’ are simple and fun activities that come with rules of play. In order to play the games, children must learn the rules and then seek to follow the rules.  As children play active and fun games such as these, they are developing a sense of fairness, right, wrong, and processing how to successfully follow the rules so they can successfully play the game.
  • Complex Dramatic Play: In the process of dramatic play – children plan their activities, negotiate with other children, and make up rules for play.  Dramatic play encourages children to work together, communicate with each other, and follow those “unwritten rules” of social conduct that they need in the process of developing self-control.
  • Building on children’s interests:  In order for young children to develop self-control, there needs to be a “want-to” aspect in the process. Building on children’s interests makes them want to participate and want to succeed so take time to find out what the children enjoy and bring those elements into your classroom.

One final thought

One thought that really stood out to me in this conversation was this statement…


There is more

These are just a few highlights from this enlightening discussion on teaching children self-control. Click on over to Bam Radio  to learn more about what you can do to help children develop self-control.

Available on Amazon


Bam Radio: Tips for addressing misbehavior in preschool

I recently participated in the Bam Radio conversation Bad Behavior: When to Ignore, When to Intervene” with Rae Pica, Mary Gersten, and Kate Williams. This is truly a wonderful discussion and I hope you will stop and take a listen. If you can’t listen to it here or here

Rae Pica with Mary Gersten, Kate Williams, Deborah J. Stewart

I have highlighted some of the points from our conversation that I really found valuable and wanted to share them with you.

When addressing misbehavior consider the following tips…

-You need to know your students well so that you can know when best to intervene and when to wait.

Individualize your responses to the development and needs of each child.

Understand the situation before you intervene – observe and know what is happening first, see how it affecting others, and determine if it is something that can be worked out without your intervention.

-Sometimes misbehavior is a call for help, other times it is a demand for attention, and other times it is simply behavior (that my be annoying to you) but is typical for the age of the child – learn to recognize why the misbehavior exists so you can determine the most effective and appropriate response.

Don’t be nitpicky– the more you harp on a child, the more he or she will start to tune you out.

Be in control of your own emotions, children will pick up on your response so make sure your response is appropriate to the situation at hand. In other words, know if your response is coming from a place of being annoyed or coming out of concern for the well being of the child.

Seek first to understand and take into consideration child development as well as your own

See guidance as a continuous process of teaching and learning

Build bonds with your children

Model the behavior you want to see in your children

Know and love your kids

I would have loved to sit and chat with these ladies all day – they both had so many thoughtful ideas. Be sure to take a listen to the Radio Show: Bad Behavior: When to Ignore, When to Intervene”