Many epidemiological studies and large-scale surveys have been conducted with aim of finding out the frequencies of occurrence of particular potentially problematic behaviors in representative samples of children.
Identification and rating of behaviors considered to be annoying and worrisome manifested by children have been identified to include: not listening, being overactive, fighting with other children, worrying a lot, and being shy (Campbell, 2006). In 2002, Winsler carried out a research and found out that behavioral competence among children is critical for best performance in the preschool setting (cited in DeLuccia, N.d). Furthermore, numerous researches done have shown that when behavioral problems occur in early childhood, there is a likelihood they will persist into the school age setting (Campbell, 1995 cited in DeLuccia, N.
d). From such studies, any individual interested in the research findings may make conclusion that when early children behaviors are treated effectively, there is a great possibility that the children will experience lesser childhood behavioral problems in their later childhood development (DeLuccia, N.d). Therefore, the interest of this research paper will be to study, analyze, and evaluate behaviors that can be encouraged in the pre-school setting and at home.
The research will recommend the behavioral strategies that can be adopted for pre-school and in home setting, which in turn can contribute to positive behaviors among the children. Thus, using the Family-Centered Program model, which appropriate strategies can be used to reinforce key behaviors of attachment, exploration, problem-solving skills, pro-social skills, and self-esteem among pre-school children is important.
The development of pro-social behavior in early childhood is an essential development task for later successful interactions. Children who develop adequate and positive prosocial skills tend to be high in socially appropriate behavior, coping, attentional regulation and low in negative emotionality (Einsenberg et al., 1996 cited in Gullotta and Bloom, 2003). In addition, interfering with the development of prosocial skills tends to weaken the protective factors discovered to be vital to the successful adaptation and resiliency among the children in their later life. Moreover, young children up to the age of 18 months interact with their environment primarily through caregivers and it is always characterized by being oriented to the immediate stimuli in the subsequent environment and the behaviors that involve the caregiver. When the child reaches preschool-age, normative prosocial skill development is largely influenced by the increase in language development, role-taking and problem-solving ability and emotional (Gullotta and Bloom, 2003).
Thus, children at this stage begin to participate in more coordinated patterns of play, friendship-building become more meaningful and social competence within the peer group become an important task (Gullotta and Bloom, 2003). Empirical investigations of prosocial development have established the existence of direct, addictive, and interaction effects of child, family and the environmentally related factors. For instance, children who have shown incorrect social schemas have been found to misinterpret social cues and use more rigid processing in problem-solving, leading to patterns of social problems (Saarni, 1999 cited in Gullotta and Bloom, 2003). Parents have become critical elements in developing positive behaviors among pre-school children. For example, today parents have assumed many roles in designing and carrying out interventions for young children whereby, for school-based interventions, parents participates as problem solvers and decision makers.
When the shift of the intervention is at home, parents at this stage become observers and teachers or largely change agents, hence many successful interventions have combined home and school elements. At the same time, numerous components of the parent-child relationship have been identified to have the ability to influence the level of a child’s level of social competence. These include patterns of attachment, childrearing styles, emotional expressiveness, parent-child play, and the parent’s directive in the child’s peer environment (Patterson, 1982 cited in Gullotta and Bloom, 2003). Further research shows that caregivers’ responsivity during the early childhood of a child has the potential to influence the toddler’s attention, language development, play complexity, and cooperation (Smith, Landry and Swank, 2000 cited in Gullotta and Bloom, 2003). More studies on pre-school aged children have shown that children whose mothers put much emphasis on those social skills manifest higher levels of social skills and social competence.
Theories and concepts behaviors for pre-schools
Many theories exist that explains prosocial development and other factors that enhance individual, family, and environmental setup to the development of prosocial skills.
Developmental theory postulate that, a child’s prosocial nature is described as an organizational construct that develops over time and has the potential to shape the social demands and reactions by caregivers and peers. The cognitive-developmental theory on the other hand states the connection between a child’s ability to control and maintain attention and socio-emotional development. Further, there is the reformulated theory of social information processing which states that a child’s social actions and adjustments result from numerous steps in processing process and interpretation of cues (Gullotta and Bloom, 2003). Theories of personality have established that empathy as the key factor in the development of prosocial thought, perspective and role-taking ability and emotional responsiveness that possess the ability to inhibit or mitigate antisocial behavior (Miller and Eisenberg, 1988 cited in Gullotta and Bloom, 2003). Moreover, theories regarding parent-child attachment and mutual reciprocity between caregiver and child outline the possibility of the development of prosocial behavior during the early childhood whereby when poor attachment is experienced then the child is impaired socially leading to negative attributions of the self and likelihood of higher vulnerability to feelings of helplessness and depression (Gullotta and Bloom, 2003). From these experiences, it can be deduced that it is from the models of social learning, ecological and transactional development that both the family and peer have great influence to the development of children’s social functioning.
The family-centered program model is a systematic-oriented behavioral approach that constitutes various programs aimed at providing help to the parents and other family members to achieve productive and durable improvements in the child’s behavior and lifestyle (Brassard and Boehm, 2008). The model specifically developed in early 1990s constituted combined effort to move away from aversive reaction to cruel problems of behavior noted in young children especially those with considerable severe disabilities.
The model draws much of its components from applied behavior analysis, behavioral family therapy, family systems theory and the community living and family support advocacy movement (Brassard and Boehm, 2008). The model focuses on behavior change that produce desired outcomes in the environments in which children function, analyze the child’s problem behavior with goal of identifying the function of the behavior for the child, then proposing alternative strategies that can be used to fulfill the child’s needs in a way that supports positive behavior.
Evidence shows that a child’s attachment orientation has come out as a powerful tool that defines a child’s growth direction. When attachment is poor, young children are likely to exhibit severe behavior problems even in their later lives (Aldrich, N.
d). Children in pre-schools are yet to develop capacities that can help them have self soothe. Therefore, it has been suggested that the children need to be taught more and effective adaptive coping strategies that the pre-school children can employ during the moments of frustration, fear, anger, or grief (Aldrich, N.d). Strategies such as putting the kids in coordinated wilderness setting have been used where the aim has been to teach the children to become self-reliant, while at the same time training them to trust people they are in contact with. Teaching strategies should largely avoid tendencies to shame the children or ‘break them down’ as this may lead them to develop negative attitudes. For parents, teaching strategies for their preschoolers should largely reflect maternal empathy and development of partnership between the parent and the child based on goal correctedness.
Further, the parent’s strategies of teaching and enhancing attachment among the children should be user friendly guided by common sense fashion with the ability to understand the cognitive and emotional stability of the child. Many of the teaching strategies by the parents it has been recommended that the parents should largely change their care giving patterns rather than aiming to learn new techniques.
Children who experience strong attachment, specifically from their parents and caregivers gain vital competencies in the areas of language, cognitive, social, and emotional development. As a result, the children become more confident in relating to their peers. The group play is the widest strategy suggested and employed in teaching explorative skills among preschoolers. For instance, children have been seen to “explore more, have more productive play and interact more and more resourcefully with adults in group settings when their attachment to teachers are secure” (Howes cited in Preusse, 2008, p.1). Because the children will largely develop their exploratory skills in groups, teaching strategies should include putting more emphasis on cooperation and discouraging much competition among the children; introducing new games to children that put more emphasis on cooperation and conflict resolution skills; and establishing and furnishing the environment that has the ability to facilitate cooperative play among the children.
This is in addition to utilizing some useful resources to impact empathy and caring skills to the children; putting in place mechanisms that encourage children with different abilities to interact and play; asking exploratory questions concerning the play to the children; providing materials that have the potential to encourage and extend exploration; and lastly developing the children’s interests and elaborating on the specific play they are involved in (Preusse, 2008, p.1).
c) Problem-solving skills
Teachers complimented by parents have a big role to help preschoolers to develop key skills that can be used in negotiation specifically during periods and situations of conflicts. Children need to demonstrate ability to utilize the social problem solving skills to find solutions to matters causing conflict with the potential to benefit them while at the same time being acceptable to others in context (Berk, 2002 cited in Preusse, 2008, p.1). Strategies that can enhance these skills include: parents and teachers to identify and give definition to the particular conflict in contest; bring the children together in groups and participate in problem solving; children should be instructed to cooperate in producing the possible solution to the conflict; and providing necessary and relevant plans for the children to follow in implementing the solution (Preusse, 2008, p.1).
Further strategies to encourage peer mediation should be taught to the children while introduction of ‘friendship table or talk-it-over table’ should be also encouraged (Preusse, 2008, p.1).
Self-esteem in children has been related to later mental health in their life. Primarily, teaching strategies should largely dwell on instructing parents on how they can promote their children’s self-esteem by accepting their children unconditionally, clearly establishing defined limits for the children behaviors, and giving permission to individual expression of the children while at the same time showing respect to the child’s unique personality (Berkowitz, N.d).
Other teaching strategies include positively encouraging the children participation in various activities, positives remarks for their contribution or participation.
e) Pro-social skills
Pre-schooling period is a moment in which children start to grow sense of independence and ability for teamwork. At this moment, children become verbal, self-aware and have the capacity to feel for the other person and demonstrate greater tendencies to interact with peers. Therefore, teaching strategies for prosocial skills should be the ones that encourage cooperation and interaction.
Positive behavior among preschoolers has become vital in determining how well they fit in future social relationships. In the past, little attention was paid to teaching parents how effective they could help in fostering positive social behaviors of their children. However, since the introduction of the Family-Centered Programs, more parental training and involvement has been realized in preschoolers positive behavior reinforcement and training.
Many studies have indicated how successful these programs have been as parents and other caregivers continue to influence the behaviors of the preschoolers positively. Moreover, the role played by pre-schoolteachers cannot be ignored, as they have been instrumental in promoting development of positive behaviors in pre-school children. What is needed is that there should be more positive play opportunities, modeling, coaching and conducive environment promoted by pre-schoolteachers which in turn can promote pre-school children learning experience to be more effective and productive.
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