Tips to meet Quality Area 5: Relationships with children

This edition, we explore pedagogical decisions that may assist services to guide and support children to regulate their own behaviour.

An educator and five children sitting at a table playing with Lego blocks inside an early childhood education centre. An educator and five children sitting at a table playing with Lego blocks inside an early childhood education centre.
Image: Storytelling through play creates a safe space for children to explore and learn how to regulate their own behaviours.

Supporting children to understand behaviour and implement self-regulation is a complex and dynamic task (element 5.2.2). Educators must consider many factors impacting children, including service context, educator and child relationships, developmental appropriateness and cultural practices. Other implications include the service philosophy, policies and procedures outlining behaviour support.

As outlined on the Victorian Government’s webpage Supporting children’s behaviour in early childhood services.

The term ‘behaviour guidance’ is used rather than ‘discipline’ as it reflects current thinking in early childhood. The term:

  • focuses on children’s strengths
  • demonstrates respect
  • is based on knowledge of child development and learning
  • is grounded in positive mutually respectful relationships between adults and children.

Explicit teaching through storytelling

One pedagogical choice to explicitly teach children appropriate behaviours is through storytelling. Storytelling is a culturally inclusive and widely used pedagogy. Stories and the process of storytelling offers a safe space for children to explore and learn about behaviours and effects.

Stories can be told through a variety of mediums including puppets, books, plays, art or multimedia (video). You may choose a story based on its underlying message, or you may choose to create a story using characters or the environment from your service. Engaging children in the creation of a story from the beginning will empower them and honour their input.

Proactive changes to the environment

Intentionally setting up or changing the environment may assist a child to experience success. You may identify a child is demonstrating a need for quiet, solitary spaces. Intentionally creating one or more of these spaces (with the child’s special interest items) will provide safe and inviting places for that child to use when they are struggling to manage their emotions.

Proactive environmental changes may decrease the need for reactive strategies. Children are provided the space and tools to assist regulating their own behaviour and are empowered to practice their own emotional and behavioural regulation.

Choosing acknowledgement over praise

The use of acknowledgement or judgement-free feedback promotes secure self-esteem development. Children learn intrinsic motivation through the development of confidence in their own skills and qualities.

Some examples of judgement-free acknowledgement include:

  • “Thank you, that’s made my job easier.”
  • “I admire that you persisted and figured out that …”
  • “I can see you’re pleased with your picture. I agree with you, you should be.”

As Dr Louise Porter and Sandi Phoenix explain in Chapter 4 of their Understanding and supporting children’s behaviour online program: “Giving children feedback that describes their achievements, rather than judging them, gives children information about who they are, without taking that extra step of implying that they must behave in particular ways for us to value them. In this way, acknowledgement safeguards children’s self-esteem.”

  • How does our service honour individual children’s cultural backgrounds when considering strategies for behaviour support?
  • In what ways could the service physical environment support behaviour guidance strategies?
  • How do our policies, procedures and service philosophy inform and encourage best practice?
  • Where do we offer support for educators to develop warm and responsive relationships with children?
  • What theoretical frameworks do we use to help us understand why a child is behaving in certain ways, and how could the framework guide our pedagogical decision making?

The NSW Regulatory Authority, as a modern best practice regulator, is spotlighting this topic and related information to ensure providers and their workforce of dedicated educators have access to the relevant information and guidance especially where we see areas that the sector is experiencing challenges.

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