Supporting Positive Behaviors in Early Childhood Angela Tomlin IAITMH
Objectives • Review new research about the development of self-regulation skills in early childhood • Discuss the relationship between self-regulation and behavior • Identify reflective and other methods to support positive behaviors in young children
Personal Learning Plan Three things I want to learn today:
Regulation True and False Quiz • Four tantrums per day is typical of normal 3 year olds • It’s realistic to expect sharing by age 18 months • Monolingual children do better than bilingual children on some attention control tasks • Two year olds should to complete a sedentary activity for 10 minutes without adult involvement • Physical aggression in early childhood predicts serious psychopathology in adulthood.
Themes of Development • Early childhood is the developmental transition from adult serving as external manager of infant’s emotion, impulses, & behavior to the young child gradually assuming responsibility for self-regulation • Some children appear to have biologically-based challenges with managing emotional arousal, impulses and behavior • Self-regulatory skills develop in context of relationship with caregivers & family
What is Self-Regulation? • The modulation of thoughts, affect and behaviors • Includes deliberate and automatic mechanisms (Karoly, 1993)
What is Self-Regulation • The ability to control emotions and behaviors in order to cope effectively with environmental demands (Calkins & Williford, 2009)
Self-Regulation • Is affected by biology and genetics • And shaped by the environment, including adult behaviors • Starts to develop early in life AND • Continues throughout adolescence • Increases over time, BUT • Can be markedly different in children of the same age
Importance of Regulation • Enhances school readiness • Supports social competence • Predicts appropriate behaviors
Risk Factors in Self-Regulation • Prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs • Maltreatment • Neglect • Poverty • Sleep disruption
So… • “Emotions are not simply things to be inhibited, and exuberance & excitement are to be encouraged as well as kept within reasonable bounds. Self-regulation incorporates encouraging helpful healthy emotions as well as controlling disruptive ones.” (Diamond et al, p. 3)
Self-regulation in early childhood Calkins & Williford, 2009 Cognitive Behavioral Emotional Attentional Biological Neonatal ▬ Infancy ▬ Toddlerhood ▬ Preschool Period years ► ►
Development of Emotional Self-regulation • Developmental course • B-4 mo: infant is dependent on caregiver stimulation and soothing via focusing attention • By 4 mo: can disengage gaze and shift attention • Look away from overarousing sight, suck on fist to self-soothe when hungry) • By 12 mo, infants begin to reach, retreat, redirect, and self-soothe; can signal adults in ways that facilitate adults’ assistance
Development of Emotional Regulation • Toddlers can use strategies to try to manage own emotions: development of language is critical • Ask for help • Put down a frustrating toy to prevent buildup of upset • Verbalize desires and dislikes • Use private speech (self-talk) • Improved problem-solving increases number of alternative coping strategies to try
Attention Regulation • Involves multiple skills • Alerting: achieve and maintain a state of high sensitivity to incoming stimuli • Orienting: selecting information from sensory input • Executive attention: mechanism for monitoring & resolving conflict among responses, thoughts and feelings • Neural basis for effortful control
Attention Regulation • Disengagement of attention (via distraction) seems key to managing negative affect • Development of attention • Early attention reg. is present as early as 4-6 mo • Self initiated distraction away from neg arousing stimulation toward neutral nonsocial stimuli
Development of Attention • Attention system responsible for effortful control develops late between toddler & preschool years • Note: individual differences in ability to use attention skills of engage/disengage to support self-control.
Temperament • Individual differences in a child’s reactions and how he/she regulates reactivity • Understanding temp helps us identify what aids a given child needs from adults to support their efforts at self-management • Multiple dimensions play role in self-regulation • Effortful control • Fearfulness/ Social inhibition
Nature & Nurture • “How is the child who is born with a tendency to be rather overactive, oppositional, and impulsive subsequently trained by the world to behave well or alternatively coerced into behaving badly?” • Rutter, Giller, & Hagell, 1998, p. 379 • To a moderate degree, we inherit temp characteristics like shyness, negative emotionality, etc.
Nature & Nurture • Most of variability among people with respect to temp dimensions is not explained by genetics alone • Learning produces alternations in gene expression; thus, experience plays role in shaping temp-based behaviors
Effortful Control • Definition: a temperament dimension that governs child’s capacity to inhibit a dominant (prepotent) response and to initiate a subdominant response • Resist strong inclination to do X; instead do what is needed or most appropriate to situation • Also involves ability to focus attention and shift it flexibly • Develops between late infancy & early school-age years
Effortful Control • Individual differences identified as early as 2nd year & show moderate stability over time • Is key to many social-emotional competences • Esp. behavior regulation according to internalized rules • Low levels of EC may be important but not sufficient risk factor for dev of early onset externalizing problems.
Children’s Games and Regulation • Traditional early childhood games provide a window into early regulation of behavior • Child may know rule before able to follow it • Games also offer practice inhibiting behaivor under conflict • Simon Says and Mother May I are good examples—child must follow a verbal direction when the visual pulls for a response or when primed to do an action
Fearfulness • Definition: inhibited response to novelty or intense stimuli (versus approach tendency) • Research links to early moral development (e.g., empathy, guilt) • Plays role in self-regulation of aggressive tendencies • Strong approach tendency as infant has been linked to limited atttention & inhibitory control at age 7 (Rothbart)
Three Difficult Behaviors • Short attention span • Refusal to comply/cooperate • Tantrums and aggression
Three Difficult Behaviors • We can’t just “get rid” of concerning behaviors • We have to think about the purpose of the behavior • And then, what else could serve that purpose
Three Difficult Behaviors • What is normal or realistic to expect? • How can we understand these behaviors? • How can we respond to help children gain skills?
Attention Span • Normal expectations…What do you think? • 14 months • 20 months • 36 months • 5 years • 16 years????
Attention Span • Should be growing over the first several years of life • We continue to improve through school age!! • Can be affected by language and cognitive delays • Can be affected by trauma
What helps improve attention? • Structure a situation to encourage success • Build in choices; looks for ways to let the child lead • Break tasks into parts and praise completion of sections • Encourage private speech or self-talk • Encourage one more time to build attention • Use talk about sequencing
Non-compliance • It’s not “non-compliance” if child does not understand the command • Can signal normal independence • Sometimes you just want to do what YOU want to do!
Noncompliance • Skilled—probably OK • Negotiation • Tries to redirect you! • Ignores instruction • Unskilled—probably a red flag • Lashes out • Defiant refusals
What Increases Compliance? • Seeing others rewarded for following directions • Practice following directions in low frustration situations • Pre-emptive strategies
Practicing Compliance • Behavioral name is “high probability request sequence” • Four step sequence: • Identify those requests child typically will complete (easy, quick to do)=High prob requests • Identify those requests child typically will not complete= low-prob requests • Ask 3 high-prob requests before asking 1 low prob request • Praise anytime child complies
Practicing Compliance • Sticker Game (“I love you rituals” Becky Bailey) • Hide 4-5 stickers on your head, easily found • Earlobes, forehead, etc • Say “I have hidden four stickers on my face. See if you can find them”. • Narrate what child is doing like radio announcer. • Have child hand you stickers and place them on fingers of your hand as holding place • Sticker-swap:
Sticker game • Put sticker on your chin and say “ take the sticker off my chin and put it on your nose”. • Turntaking game where you remove sticker from child’s face and place it on your face. • Child then removes sticker from your face and puts it on your face. • If child does not like things on his face, use arm/leg
How do parents help kids comply? • British observational study of cleanup task in homes • (Gardner, Sonuga-Barke, & Sayal, 1999 • Preemptive strategies • Precedes or accompanies first request, before noncompliance • Used to persuade child to carry out request • Reflects mom planning ahead to help child deal with difficult task (vs. “reactive mom”)
Examples of preemptive strategies • Reasoning (why beh is needed) • Positive incentive= offer something different/new conditional on compliance (first, then) • Compromise=offer to help/reduce scope of task • Imaginative=use humor or pretend, imaginative game
Findings • Moms of 3 yo’s with no beh problems use preemptive persuasive strategies more than do moms of 3 year olds with beh problems • Strong relationship between use of preemptive strategies and child compliance across groups
Aggressive Behaviors • Most common reason for a mental health referral in young children (Wakschlag & Davis, 2004) • Starts after first birthday • 75% of children have aggressive behavior by age 2 years • So, some aggression is normal • But, can also relate to domestic violence, family conflict, abuse, or neglect
Aggressive Behavior in Context • Should be more prosocial than aggressive behaviors • Aggressive behaviors should be stable or decreasing, NOT increasing • Context is important • Reactive—lack of impulse control • Proactive-planful • Does child feel sorry—show concern
Aggression: Temper Tantrums • Caregivers of 279 preschoolers age 3 to 6 complete the PAPA • Diagnostic categories • Healthy • Depressed • Disruptive behavior • Depression and disruptive behaviorBelden, Thomson, & Luby, 2008
Temper Tantrums • Typical young children have a tantrum once per day that lasts about 3 minutes (range of 90 seconds to 5 minutes) • Behaviors associated with clinical dx • Aggression toward caregivers or destruction of objects • Self-injurious behavior • 5+ tantrums per day or 10-20 on separate days over a 30 day period • Tantrums longer than 25 min • Inability to calm after a tantrum
What Reduces Aggression? • Time—getting older, gaining skills • Increase in substitute ways to show frustration, anger and other negative emotions • Consistent limit setting by caregivers • Positive models
Self-Regulation via relationships • Parents serve as modifiers or amplifiers of children’s tendencies toward emotional arousal & emotional regulation • External regulator of infant’s state (return to calm alert state from distress, excitement) • Provide encouragement & support in challenging times • Does parent verbalize optimism that child will self-calm or “predict disaster”?
Regulation • Skills children develop • Skills parents develop • Skills parents help children develop • Skills providers develop • Skills providers help parents develop • Skills providers help parents help children develop
Self-regulation via relationship • Active coaching & teaching “in the moment” • Does parent help child recognize stages in the build up of tension? • Does parent help child learn to “take a break” and return to frustrating task? • Does parent teach child appropriate verbal expression of negative feelings? • Does parent anticipate and “debrief” difficult times with child? • Does parent coach child to hug a stuffed animal, relax or self-talk?
Self-Regulation via relationships • Modeling through parent’s own self-regulation in family life: children imitate • Does parent talk about own feelings & use appropriate expression of negative feelings? • Does parent get upset when child is upset or remain calm? • Does parent use effective coping strategies when upset? • contrasted with substance use, impulsive behavior (e.g., leaving), etc.
Self-regulation via relationship • Degree of consistency and reliability of caregiving environment creates emotional climate of daily life • Unstable, unpredictable caregiving (who will do it, where, when, in what manner?) increases child anxiety & interferes with dev of self-regulatory skills • Child’s energy goes into monitoring & vigilance rather than learning and self-regulation