Managing Challenging Behaviors in Preschool

Managing challenging behaviors in preschool is a crucial aspect of creating a positive and supportive learning environment where all children can thrive. While challenging behaviors are a normal part of early childhood development, it’s essential for educators to have effective strategies and approaches for addressing and preventing these behaviors to promote a safe and productive classroom environment. In this article, we’ll explore practical tips and techniques for managing challenging behaviors in New York preschool settings.

1. Understand the Root Causes

Developmental Stage

Recognize that challenging behaviors often stem from children’s developmental stage and their inability to regulate emotions and impulses effectively. Understand that preschoolers are still learning social-emotional skills and may exhibit challenging behaviors as they navigate new experiences and situations.

Environmental Factors

Consider environmental factors that may contribute to challenging behaviors, such as transitions, changes in routine, overstimulation, or lack of structure. Identify triggers or stressors that may escalate challenging behaviors and take steps to modify the environment to promote calmness and predictability.

2. Establish Clear Expectations

Consistent Rules and Routines

Establish clear, consistent rules and routines that outline expectations for behavior in the classroom. Use visual cues, such as visual schedules or behavior charts, to reinforce expectations and help children understand what is expected of them in different situations.

Positive Reinforcement

Use positive reinforcement to acknowledge and praise desired behaviors, such as following directions, sharing, or using kind words. Provide specific feedback and encouragement to reinforce positive behaviors and motivate children to continue demonstrating them.

3. Use Positive Behavior Support Strategies

Redirect and Reinforce

Redirect children’s behavior by offering alternative activities or choices when they engage in challenging behaviors. Use positive language and reinforcement to encourage children to make better choices and redirect their attention towards more appropriate activities.

Teach Social-Emotional Skills

Teach social-emotional skills such as self-regulation, empathy, and problem-solving through explicit instruction and modeling. Use storytelling, role-playing, and hands-on activities to help children develop the skills they need to manage their emotions and interact positively with others.

4. Foster Positive Relationships

Build Trust and Connection

Build positive relationships with children based on trust, respect, and empathy. Take the time to get to know each child individually, understand their unique needs and strengths, and show genuine interest in their well-being.

Communicate with Families

Maintain open, ongoing communication with families about children’s behavior and progress in the classroom. Share observations, concerns, and strategies for supporting children’s social-emotional development at home and at school.

5. Seek Professional Support if Needed

Consult with Colleagues

Seek support and guidance from colleagues, administrators, or behavior specialists if you encounter challenging behaviors that require additional support. Collaborate with colleagues to develop strategies and interventions that address children’s individual needs effectively.

Professional Development

Participate in professional development opportunities focused on behavior management, social-emotional learning, and trauma-informed practices. Stay informed about the latest research and best practices in early childhood education to enhance your skills and knowledge in supporting children’s social-emotional development.


Managing challenging behaviors in preschool requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the root causes of behavior, establishes clear expectations, uses positive behavior support strategies, fosters positive relationships, and seeks professional support when needed. By implementing these strategies consistently and collaboratively, educators can create a supportive and nurturing learning environment where all children can succeed.

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