The holidays are exciting for everyone who celebrates, and along with that excitement comes stress and anxiety. It’s hard enough to handle this as a full-grown adult, but when you are a preschooler, you simply don’t have all the tools you need to handle the excitement, change in routine, and the busy stressed-out adults around you. As teachers, we can fight against this, trying to control our students and manage misbehavior with more punishments and zero-tolerance. Or we can create a more supportive environment during the holidays for our students and help them try their best to self-regulate through the stress and excitement. I vote for option number two. Here are some strategies for effective holiday behavior management for preschool that will help you have a calm classroom.
Calm Classroom Environment
Whether you celebrate Christmas officially in your classroom or not, it’s best to keep the holiday glitz to a minimum. Having a peaceful physical environment is a huge part of creating a classroom that supports positive behavior. If celebrating Christmas is appropriate for your classroom going all out decorating for the holidays can seem like a great idea, but going overboard can be overstimulating for your students. Young children can only process so much stimulus at a time, too many results in not being able to handle anything, and just like a computer that is trying to process too much at once, they crash. Crashing can be a meltdown. It can be lacking the patience to use their words, or even simply not being able to engage with any educational activities properly.
Predictability & Routine is vital for Behavior Management
Simplifying the physical environment is essential for a clam classroom, but equally important is maintaining predictable boundaries and routine throughout the holidays. When children know what to expect, they feel in control when they feel in control, and they have no reason to try to exert control over friends or get into power struggles with adults. As teachers, we will never be able to completely squash this, but we can help minimize it.
Classroom rules shouldn’t change, and if possible, your routine should be the same during the holidays. A tool that is super useful for maintaining a predictable environment is a visual schedule. This is essentially a photo schedule for your students to see the order of events every day. You can print one for free here.
Predictability isn’t just about routine, I always like to balance new activities with predictable old favorites. As a teacher at a church-affiliated school, I do a lot of Christmas themed activities, but we balance them with old favorites like playdough, cars, baby dolls, Duplo…This balances the excitement with familiarity.
Realistic Expectations for Student Behavior
We need to stay firm with our boundaries but realistic with our expectations. Patience will be in short supply, and your students may not be getting as much sleep as family events take precedence over bedtimes. Adjust your expectations, student behavior will probably not be at it’s best, you are not failing as a teacher, your routine probably doesn’t need to be adjusted, and your students aren’t bad. Remember that all behaviors are needs trying to be met, take a breath, and do your best.
Calm Reactions to Student Behavior
I was a theatre nerd in high school, I did community theatre, and declared I would be an actress… little did I know that I would use my acting skills, but it wouldn’t be on a stage, it would be in a classroom. When big emotions come out of little people, especially when it seems irrational, it can get the best of you. It may outrage you to see a child smack a classmate for no reason, and you may want to raise your voice or let that anger out. It won’t help. As teachers, we need to act calm even if we are feeling anything but because we are modeling how to react to other people’s big emotions. If we respond with anger, what will we be teaching our students? That responding with anger and intimidation is how they are supposed to react in emotional situations. That’s going to come back to haunt you.
Instead, be positive, be calm, and remember that you are the guide out of the chaos for your students. Reacting calmly doesn’t mean you are allowing this poor behavior to happen; it just means that you aren’t losing control when it does. This is key if your goal is a calm classroom.
Sense of Humor
I can’t tell you how valuable a sense of humor is while teaching this time of year. The reality is that children will be “off” a lot for the next month and there is only so much as teachers we can do to stop it. Instead of getting frustrated, take a breath and laugh when you can because if you have already implemented all of the above, what else can you do?
Have a tip for calming the holiday chaos? How do you manage to keep a calm classroom? Share in comments!