Positive Guidance

Positive Guidance

Positive guidance focuses on guiding children toward appropriate behavior, rather than simply punishing them for misbehaving.  It is an effective tool for minimizing behavior problems, as well as boosting children’s self-esteem and helping them develop coping skills.  Positive guidance techniques are sensitive to children’s abilities at different ages and stages and can help parents and caregivers create healthy environments that provide both caring and direction.   

As a parent or caregiver, you are a very important role model for a developing young child.  Do your best to exhibit behavior that you would like to see children imitate.  But remember that it takes time for children to understand and recognize their feelings, and learn how to control their emtional states and behavior.  Be patient as you guide them in acting appropriately. 

Tips on Using Positive Guidance
Guide children’s behavior with kindness and firmness.  Firmness and kindness together help children cooperate and learn acceptable behavior while feeling secure.

Give children choices.  Whenever possible, give children a choice between at least 2 acceptable options. Being able to make choices helps children feel more in control of their environment and helps develop their self-esteem and self-confidence. Providing too many choices could be overwhelming to a child, so it is important to strike a balance between flexibility and structure.
Give clear, simple directions.  Children are better able to follow instructions if you give them one thing to do at a time.  Be sure that you have their full attention when giving directions (e.g., make eye contact) and that your expectations are realistic given the child’s age.

Provide a safe and interesting play environment.  Children are more likely to misbehave if they are bored.  So, offer lots of developmentally appropriate toys and activities and child-proof the environment to avoid unnecessary accidents or a continual need to set limits that can be frustrating.

Set clear limits.  Limits are not rules - they are flexible boundaries. Limits should be set for safety, to protect children and property (toys, furniture, etc.), and to teach responsibility and show respect for all people. Children feel secure in an environment with limits that are neither too strict nor too laidback.

Help children successfully transition to new activities.  Providing both 10-minute and 5-minute warnings before changing activities can help children make the adjustment.

Be consistent.  Children do best when the rules are consistent from day to day.  Frequent changes to the rules can be confusing and may lead children to act out in order to find out what the limits are. 
Follow through.  When you say something, follow through!  If you tell a child he cannot go outside without a jacket, do not let him go outside until he has put on his coat.  Be firm, yet kind as you enforce your rules.  This helps children learn about responsibility.

Use praise and positive statements often.  Children love to be praised, and it is an effective way to encourage good behavior.  Be as specific as possible when praising children.  For example, “I love it when you put your coat away.  Thank you.  It makes me very happy.”

Take action before a situation gets out of control.  Be aware of potential conflicts that may be arising and intervene by suggesting another activity or helping children express their feelings in words.  Remember that no two children are alike and relationships change constantly, so pick and choose from this list as necessary to fit each child and situation.

Make a game out of good behavior.  For example, encourage children to put away their toys by saying “Let’s see if you can get all the toys in the shelf by the time I count to ten.”

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