Unit 7.2 Guidance

Guiding children’s behaviour at any age is 95% prevention and 5% intervention.

By remembering that children’s behaviour is influenced by their development, the environment and by the people around them, child care providers can “set the stage” for a positive atmosphere and maximize opportunities for desirable behaviour.

Preventative Guidance Strategies

Establishing clear, consistent & simple limits:

Limits are statements of what behaviour is appropriate. They should be clearly related to the safety and protection of self, others and the environment.

Stating limits in a positive way, rather than in a negative way:

Phrasing limits in a positive way focuses on what to do, rather than what not to do.

Focusing on the behavior, rather than on the child:

When caregivers focus on a child’s behaviour, rather than on a child’s character, they preserve a child’s integrity and offer positive guidance for learning.

Stating what is expected, rather than pose a question:

In routines, limits and expected behaviours, it is important to state, rather than to ask. While there are many opportunities for children to make choices, offer these options only when they are appropriate. When there is not a choice, make a clear statement of what is expected. For example: “it’s time to tidy up now.” Rather than: “Do you want to tidy up?”

Providing choices:

Providing choices is also a valid prevention strategy for young children, which often avoids power struggles.

Allowing time for children to respond to expectations:

Children react more favourably when they are offered cues and warnings. This helps them to anticipate or prepare for change.
For example: “In five minutes, it will be time to clean up.” Rather than: “Get that cleaned up now.”

Reinforce appropriate behaviour, with both words and gestures:

When children are doing well, it is important to acknowledge this through words or gestures. Positive reinforcement helps children build self-confidence and encourages them to repeat desired behaviours.

Ignore minor incidents:

Adults who work with young children need to develop tolerance for a certain amount of noise, clutter, and attention seeking behaviour. As long as children’s activities are not infringing on the rights of others, it is often best to “take a breath,” rather than to speak.

Encouraging children to use you as a resource:

Children feel a greater sense of comfort and trust when they know that the child care provider is there to protect, guide, and help them.

There will be occurrences of inappropriate behavior and adults will need to intervene. The following intervention strategies, or a combination of these strategies, will help ensure that guidance is supportive, rather than punitive:

Intervention Guidance Strategies

Gain a child’s attention in a respectful way

Apart from situations where physical danger is imminent, adults should approach children individually, state their name, get down to the child’s eye level, and use calm, controlled voice. In situations where children may be losing self-control, the closeness of an adult can often help calm them.


To clarify and reinforce limits, simple reminders are helpful to young children. For example: “The bikes stay on the bike paths.” “Sand stays down.”

Acknowledge feelings before setting limits

In order that children perceive adult guidance as supportive, it is important for them to know that their feelings are recognized and understood.
When limits are preceded by an acknowledgement of feelings, children will be less likely to respond in a negative way. For example: “You look really angry. But I cannot let you hurt Scott.”

Redirect or divert when appropriate

When adults redirect children’s activity, they assume responsibility for solving a problem which children have been unable to resolve through other guidance strategies. As much as possible, children should be redirected towards activities that are in line with their needs. For example: “I can see you really need to be outside. Let’s get our coats.”

Model problem-solving skills

When children face discouraging or frustrating situations, it is natural for them to lose control. As child care providers anticipate this, they can offer verbal and/or physical assistance which models problem solving.

Offer appropriate choices

When clarifying expectations or reinforcing limits, child care providers can offer a simple choice. The choice should be posed in a nonthreatening and non-punitive way. For example: “You can sit quietly at the circle, or you can choose a quiet activity like a puzzle. You decide.”

Use natural and logical consequences

A statement of natural consequences simply clarifies the inevitable or unavoidable outcome of a behaviour. For example: “When you forget to put your picture on the shelf, it’s difficult to find it when it’s time to go home.” A statement of logical consequence clarifies an adult-arranged outcome ofbehaviour. For example: “Yes, I can see that the paint spilled. Here is a sponge for wiping it up.”

Provide opportunities for children to make amends

Rather than demand a superficial apology, adults should offer genuine opportunities for children to restore relationships after an incident of hurt or harm.