Just imagine: A class full of unruly 4 and 5 year olds that don’t listen, don’t mind you and have a lot of trouble staying attentive. Sound familiar? Sounds like a nightmare! In the teaching help section of her Level 2 Curriculum Book, Ruth Brinkerhoff gives some great, practical and timeless advice to teachers on how to use natural and logical consequences to manage classroom behavior.
Natural vs. Logical Consequences
Natural consequence is a good way for children to learn about the world. It means they are allowed to experience the results of their choices of actions. It means the adults in their world do not “protect” them from the consequences of their actions. Whatever they choose to do, they experience the full consequence. This method of teaching correct and wise behavior can be used so long as the behavior does not:
- Endanger the safety of the child or someone else.
- Result in damage or destruction of property.
- Result in intense irritation to others.
Logical consequences are results that adults arrange to happen as a result of inappropriate behavior by the child. Usually it is in the form of a rule, which includes a clear expectation, and a clear consequence which directly relates to the infraction of the rule.
An Example From Dance Class
Teddy bears are passed out to a three year-olds class. One child insists on throwing the bear or treating it roughly. Teacher quietly states the rule, once: “You must be nice to my bear, or you may not hold him.”
Result A: Child bangs bear on the floor. Teacher gently, but firmly removes the bear, saying, “We don’t do that to the bears.”
No further discussion or reaction should occur from the teacher, no matter what the child says. Remember that the bears belong to the teacher. This fact gives you the right to remove it at your discretion. “It is my bear. I don’t want my bear hurt. When you are ready to be nice to my bear, you may hold him.”
Result B: Child looks expectantly at the teacher and waits. “Thank you, Sophia! Thank you for taking good care of my bear!” Child smiles and hugs bear. Yes, this could happen that quickly. Most young children are most eager to please the adults in charge.
With either result, do some follow through. The entire class will wonder if you will also take their bears away for some reason they do not understand. They do not understand reasons for things like this, only the feelings involved.
So, the teacher sits with the class on the floor and shows them how to hold the bear, and how to be nice to their bears as they dance with them. At this point, the offender (Result A) should have the bear returned to her so she can experience the praise the teacher is giving everyone for compliance.
If the offender (Result A) again tries for more special attention, the bear is removed without comment and not returned. It is best to not even look directly at the child as you do this, if possible.
The less direct attention the child receives for the inappropriate behavior, the less “payoff” the child gets, and the less likely she or he is to repeat it. Be sure the bear is not put where the child can slyly go and get it on his or her own.
Using Logical Consequences
First, and most important, train yourself to not react emotionally to the “bad” behavior, or to the child’s words. Stay calm, unruffled, matter-of-fact.
Second, do not give “warnings” or “threats”, as these constitute special attention to the child, and may be received by the child as “payoffs” worth working for.
Children lack judgment. They do not attach values of right and wrong to actions in the same way that we adults do. Children do not see items as “rewards” in the same way that adults do, either. Children’s values consist mainly of getting attention from the significant adults in their world. Negative attention is far more valuable than no attention, and they will do anything they can to fill their need.
If we want to redesign their behavior, we must reach their value system, their feelings, and reward the behavior that we want with a reward that the child will value: a word of praise, a hug, a special moment of attention, or whatever is important to them.
Third, be sure that your arranged consequence is in line with the offense in severity, length, and how the child will view it. The time it takes to do one activity, sometimes two, is usually long enough for them to understand the lesson.
Logical Consequences Usually Work Well in a Dance Class
- “You may not run around the room because that disturbs the class. Come, sit here for one exercise.”
- “Sit on your spot so we can find out what’s coming next. I have a surprise for you. Hurry, sit on your spots!”
- “Dance nicely with my scarves or I will have to put them away.”
As you read these suggestions, I hope you sense that the positive promise feels much nicer than the negative rule. Both are important, as not all misbehaviors can be avoided through anticipation and preparation.
Try to work your words and actions so that the child will see the consequence as a true and logical result of their actions, and not as a punishment of them as a person. Also, be sure the others know that they will be treated fairly.
The understandings of four year-olds are quite limited. They do not understand very much about cause and effect, or about right and wrong. They want to know, they want to learn. They need to learn. The dance teacher is one of the significant adults in the lives of these young children. Use your teaching moments wisely. You can make a difference.
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