Positive Guidance For Preschool Children

It is especially hard to get a child with short attention spans (especially one with ADHD) to follow the rules. Sometimes children with such deficits do not hear things the same way you or I or other children would hear them. It is especially important for the teacher to establish eye contact, have the child verbally repeat the task given and make sure they follow through. Gentle reminders help as well as short commands, instead of giving a child a list of things to do all at once. Too many tasks can be overwhelming for a child, especially an ADHD child.


Instead of using “Time Out” all the time I got this idea from a friend and modified for my class.

Every child has a star with their name on it. There are 7 levels on the board. Each star begins on the middle level each day. With the caption “Will your star rise today”?

There are 3 levels up so when a child is “caught” being good I make a really big deal over moving their star to the next level.  The captions on each level are 1. Looking Good 2. Getting Better 3. You are a Super Star!

For negative behavior, I just quietly move their star down so as to not give the child so much attention for the behavior. They get a 1st warning, 2nd warning, and then Time Out.

Children who end on the Super Star level every day of the week will get a special refrigerator award. At the beginning of the year, I use stars with the child’s picture on it so they can recognize when their star has been moved. It works in my room. I have maybe only one time out a week if that. Most of the time they all end up a Super Star.

I’ve found that telling the children what they should do instead of what they shouldn’t do brings the act of obedience along much easier for the children. For instance, use words like this to teach your children…. “use your walking feet.” instead of “Don’t run.” “Use your inside voices.” Instead of “Stop screaming” and “Keep your feet on the floor.” instead of “Don’t climb on the couch.” “Sit on the chair.” instead of “Don’t stand on the chair.” “Run your truck on the floor.” instead of “Don’t run your truck on the table.” The best rules tell children what they should do, rather than what they shouldn’t do.

Always praise when you see good behavior. Always acknowledge them by name and always try to do it in the presence of the other children. Not only are you reinforcing that behavior but you show these little people that they can get their much-needed approval and acceptance from you. I think you’ll find the theory of “monkey see, monkey do.” really does ring true during these moments.

Make transitions from one activity to another fun for the kids by singing songs and playing games. for instance, something simple that we all have to deal with every day, clean-up time. We often sing Barney’s clean up song and for some miraculous reason, the kids have no qualms about cleaning up after themselves if they’re singing while their working. You can even make up songs as you go the kids don’t seem to know any different, and still seem to enjoy themselves. This goes for any kind of transition thru-out the day.

If you can’t get the kid’s attention you can also use flipping the lights on and off, so long as you teach them ahead of time what you expect when the lights are flipped. Of course, if any of the children are frightened by this method you shouldn’t use it.

I use tons of positive reinforcement. It is harder to notice the good behavior but gets the job done really.

At circle times I like to say “I like the way that _____ is sitting. Great job. I go around the group and everyone wants to hear their name so they settle down pretty quickly.

Encouragement Circle- I teach preschool with a class of 15; mostly boys. Sit in a circle, the teacher starts by rolling a ball of yarn to someone in the circle and then has to say one thing they like about that person. Then that person holds part of the yarn and rolls the other end to another until everyone has had a turn to roll the yarn. In the end, you should have a web that connects everyone.