By Nathalie Lizé

We are early childhood professionnels and our job is to educate. We should act conscientiously and ethically with all children, love each of them unconditionally every day and keep on smiling no matter what. Is this always humanly possible? Can men and women in all their humanity, love all children without ever being distracted from the right path by the bad temper of one or the disturbing behavior of the other? Can we, every day, ignore our tiredness or our grumpy mood? There are times when a lack of affinity with one or more kids is hard to forget and this is normal. Do you see what I’m talking about? If this is something you’ve never experienced, you’re very lucky. For those who have a feeling of déjà vu and who are looking for solutions to this human and delicate situation. I will try in this text, to give you some ideas to help you improve your relationship with all the little ones in your class.

Observe yourself

First of all, It is important to ask yourself why this child’s behavior is disturbing you so much? Why are you getting more impatient with him in particular? I think you have to find out why your reaction is so strong in order to work more adequately. Does the child who hurts or pushes others, arrogantly answers, screams or cries a lot, comes to question your deep personal values? Do you feel incompetent and you comme to believe that there is nothing you can do? Do you have the impression that it is his temper and he will not change, no matter what the intervention? Do you only see negative behaviors and don’t understand how to get over them? Finally, do you feel like you have done everything and you are running out of tools? Do you feel every time a child has the same kind of personality, you go through it with difficulty? Find out what discomfort it causes in you and work on it. My intention is not to make you feel guilty. We are professionals but we are human and all of these questions are necessary. The first thing to do is to take a step back from the situation to understand it better and to look at it from a différent angle. Also, don’t forget to be kind with yourself and to listen to your needs too. To take care of others, you have to take care of yourself first.

See beyond behavior

In order to work on a behavior, you must first find it’s cause. Every negative attitude hides a need and as long as it is not adequately addressed, despite all the goodwill in the world, nothing is resolved and the problem comes back. It’s like working on the symptoms without looking for the cure. We have a tendency to act directly on bad habits but we forget to find where it’s coming from, to look for the child’s discomfort. When developpemental causes are eliminated by your observations and medical causes too, you have to go beyond behavior. Understand what kind of attention the child is looking for. Aldo, as you must know, observation is really the basis of any intervention. By being able to identify why the kid is acting this way, you will make the différence between the child and his actions, and work directly on the cause. You will probably understand that the child’s intention is not to provoke you but to respond to a discomfort or even a need. You can consult Maslow’s pyramid to guide you in understanding the basic needs of humans. Here is an example
Choose your words carefully when you talk about the kids you are taking care of. Words are strong and they are hearing them. Be careful not to label a child unintentionally because he will probably adopt the behaviors to respond to this label. Children are not bad, aggressive, rude, arrogant or always crying. These are only actions which do not represent who they deeply are.

Finding the positive

Despite the lack of affinity and disturbing behaviors, you can find in all children skills and qualities that emerge when you really take time to search. By focusing on the positive you will feel better about him. Compliment him every day. Change your negative perception by writing down nice moments of the day and take time to tell him what you have noticed. Share your positive observations with your colleagues, it will help you remember them. Try to focus your attention specifically on these moments. Spend time alone with this child and be present with heart and mind, show him interest and make sure he expériences success. Show him you are feeling good in his presence.
You can create a table with 2 columns. One for times you say his name in negative situations and one for times you say his name in positive situations. Then, for a day, make a check mark, in the respective column each time you name him. You will be surprised how many checks there are for bad behaviors. Lots of negative attention being given without realizing it.
Then,work on naming him less often. Take him by the hand and direct him elsewhere, place his chair without speaking to him, take him down from the table without a word, redirect his attention, give him something he likes to Play with. If you have a quiet corner, offer him to go there.

Positive reinforcement

Most importantly, do verbal and non-verbal reinforcement when you get the opportunity. This will help you capture the best times of the day and see the qualities that remain hidden under his inappropriate behaviors. Nonverbal is a good and easy way to show affection and to encourage kids. Make him a smile, gently touch his back or his hair, give a thumbs up, a hug or sit next to him when he is behaving well. This way, you will avoid naming him and he will still feel the warmth of the gesture and the kind intention. Giving responsibilities is also a great way to value children and make them feel important. By feeling your positive attitude towards him, the child Will want to please you and will search your positive attention. Thereby, you will develop a better image of him.

Take a step back

No matter what behavior is causing you to have ambiguous emotions, take care of yourself and try to take a step back. Get support from your colleagues or other competent people willing to help you in your daycare. To find the cause of recurring negative behavior, look for literature, training or videos, the web is full of resources.
Step out of the negative circle and use your energy to work in the positive. To overcome the lack of affinities, look for the qualities and strengths of this little one who brings you a little more challenge. And the most relevant advice I can give you is not to search for perfection. Nobody and no situation are perfect in this life. Always try to do your best to the best of your knowledge. Try hard to accept each little human as they are with all their uniqueness. If you sometimes make a less adequate intervention, come back with the child and explain. He will understand that he also has the right to make mistakes since adults do too.

Talk to you soon
Nathalie Lizé
Educator and family coach

Aging as a Early Childhood educator