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Opinion: guide behaviour, don’t manage it

Managing children’s behaviour by instilling obedience in them is largely ineffective, as it encourages rebellion and disruption, an early learning educator has said.

Sandi Phoenix, from Phoenix Support for Educators, argues that many established early learning practices manage behaviour rather than guide it, generally leading to disruption and disengagement of children from their learning. These practices include group time, and while Phoenix does not endorse abolishing this from preschool settings, she said early learning curriculums should be tweaked to encourage kids to co-operate and consider the needs of others.

“It’s about really supporting children in making their own reasoned judgements rather than making decisions for them,” Phoenix said. “Some of the practices need to be questioned because a lot of old practices have a behaviourial goal of compliance and obedience. These days we do prefer, and we know through evidence-based practice, to make educational decisions and curriculum decisions for children that support co-operation and consideration of each other, rather than compliance.”

Phoenix said rather than attempting to have power over the children, educators should attempt to work with the children to help them understand why their behaviour might be inconsiderate. She acknowledged this was a complex change but strongly encouraged educators to seek knowledge to help them guide children.

“Knowledge is power, and learning and reading a lot about supporting children through a guidance approach is necessary because there’s no one set fix,” Phoenix said.

Click below to hear more from Sandi Phoenix. 
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