Experts weigh in on behavioral problems as children return to in-person learning

Giving children positive alternatives
Better behavior makes kids better learners in school.
Better behavior makes kids better learners in school.(wvlt)
Published: May. 3, 2021 at 3:07 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WVLT) --- With the pandemic keeping kids at home so long, experts expect challenging behaviors to intensify as kids return to school.

Chronic behaviors such as crying, hitting or even biting can create a cycle where teachers may react negatively to disruptive behavior, leading to fewer learning opportunities.

However, there are tips on how to promote positive behaviors that will keep kids learning.

Maureen Conroy, PhD, Anita Zucker Endowed Professor at the University of Florida studies social-emotional learning in young children. She says challenging behaviors that happen often and are intense, such as hitting or kicking others, can interfere with a child’s learning.

Nearly 75 percent of teachers who reported challenging behaviors had a moderate to severe impact on their ability to attend to the needs of other children. If those challenging behaviors are not addressed early, they can lead to negative outcomes years later, according to Conroy.

“They can be even more likely to end up dropping out of school,” said Conroy.

Conroy co-developed the Best in Class intervention. It teaches children behavioral expectations and rules and routines that apply to any setting: a friend’s house, the grocery store, or a library.

“We use our inside voices. We use our walking feet. We listen with our ears,” said Conroy.

Conroy said adults should provide corrective feedback when a challenging behavior occurs by showing kids an alternative behavior and offer praise to show approval of appropriate behavior or responses.

Conroy found when teachers were properly coached on techniques to handle challenging behaviors, children’s challenging behaviors decreased and they had a more positive social-emotional engagement with teachers and their peers.

“Teachers can use it throughout the day, during everyday teaching opportunities rather than taking children and pulling them out. And that way, children learn what to do in those activities,” said Conroy.

Social scientists say parents play a big role. This program established a home-school partnership that focuses on sharing information about the child’s behavior. The study found that coaching teachers and parents could help address challenging behaviors.

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