Behavior Strategies for Kindergarten

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Entering kindergarten is both an exciting and challenging time for young children. This lesson will provide some behavior strategies that can be used with kindergartner's to help them adjust to the expectations of formal education.

I'm in Kindergarten!

Amy is a bright and outgoing five-year-old who started kindergarten four months ago. She seems to like the idea of going to school and being with the big kids, but she is having a tough time adjusting to the teacher's expectations. When Amy's mom met with the teacher she found out that Amy disrupts class by blurting out answers, and that she is often socializing with her classmates when she should be paying attention to the material being presented. Her teacher wants to implement some behavior strategies to refocus Amy's attention, and she's trying to figure out what would work best.

Kindergarten Behavior

Kindergarten is an interesting time for young children. For many, it is their first introduction to formal education, while for others it is an intermediate year between daycare and primary school. Regardless, entering kindergarten is a challenging, rewarding, and exciting time for both children and their parents. There are some developmental challenges that can present themselves to educators as these 5 and 6 year olds enter kindergarten. These include:

  • Displaying a wide variety of behavioral and educational skill sets - children who have attended preschool and/or daycare have already mastered some basic skills that others may not have such as cooperative play, sharing, and understanding rules. In addition, children will vary widely in their educational abilities. While some will be able to read and write, others may have never been exposed to these skills.
  • Asserting a new sense of independence - by the ages of five and six most children are experimenting with asserting their independence. They are starting to understand that they have a voice and can be heard, and will assert themselves to see what happens. While this behavior is developmentally normal, it is often not well received in formal educational settings.
  • A high level of physical activity - by kindergarten, children have mastered a variety of gross motor skills. They can skip, jump rope, run, and catch a ball. They are very active and many have a difficult time sitting still for extended periods of time, something that is typically expected in a school environment.

Behavior Strategies for Kindergarten

Since the developmentally appropriate behaviors and actions of kindergartners have the potential of creating some challenges in classrooms, as we saw in Amy's case earlier, it is a good idea for both educators and parents to become familiar with some of the behavior strategies, or behavior management techniques, that appear to be successful when dealing with children in this age group. Before reviewing specific techniques, however, here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • More rules are not necessarily better - the more rules that are presented to kindergartners, the more confused they will be. Rules should be simple, straightforward, and have clear rewards and consequences.
  • Pick your battles wisely - a student skipping from her desk to the waste paper basket is not the same as a student who throws his book at the teacher in anger. Since students at this age are adjusting to the world of education and the expectations associated with that, it is important that the rules that are set address situations that can overlook minor unintentional actions.
  • Stay in control - you are the adult and you are in charge. Never allow a child's actions to affect your composure.
  • Mean what you say and say what you mean - if you outline a specific consequence for a specific behavior, always follow through.

Behavior Strategies to Consider

After reviewing some things to keep in mind when deciding upon behavior strategies to implement in kindergarten, let's look at some techniques that are effective to use with most kindergartners:

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