Positive Guidance in Early Childhood Education


Positive Guidance Strategies in Early Childhood Education


Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic spell you can cast to encourage children’s positive behavior (if there were, trust us, we’d share it!).


But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a life full of temper tantrums and misbehaving.


At ParentEducate.com, we’re dedicated to helping parents like you more easily navigate parenthood — and find answers to essential questions about positive guidance in early childhood, like “what is positive guidance in early childhood?” “what are positive guidance strategies?,” “how can I keep my kid from yelling so much?” and “when will my kid listen to me?”


That’s why we’re breaking down the top positive guidance strategies in early childhood education — and how you can implement them at home.


What is positive guidance, and what are positive guidance strategies?


While “positive guidance” gets thrown around, the phrase is much more than just a buzzword. Positive guidance refers to an entire framework of parenting that focuses on teaching children social and behavioral skills via role modeling. The thought is that, by demonstrating acceptable practices in front of little ones, you’ll encourage children’s positive behavior.


Positive discipline (another term for positive guidance) was first introduced in the 1980s when Dr. Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott began exploring previous parenting theories and creating behavioral models around them. The duo wrote several books about their new concept, which eventually led to schools — and families — across the globe adopting their positive guidance and discipline techniques for early childhood development.


Positive guidance strategies, in turn, are things you can implement as a parent to make it easier for your child to understand what good behavior looks like and mirror it back. It will make positive guidance in early childhood very effective. Some tools can help your kid develop healthy social, emotional, and communication skills.


What are positive guidance strategies that don’t work?


Before we dive into the best ways to encourage children’s positive behavior at home, let’s take a moment to dispel some of the common misconceptions about positive guidance in early childhood techniques. Positive parenting doesn’t mean letting your child get away with anything.


Instead, it’s about explaining why certain behaviors are better than others and letting them know the consequences of not acting accordingly.


Positive discipline also involves a lot of thoughtful action on your part. It can be easy to get upset when your child doesn’t listen. But if you’re practicing positive guidance, it’s imperative to keep your cool.


Finally, positive parenting is about more than just “smiling through difficult times.” It’s about being intentional in each interaction you have with your child and those you have with others while your kid is around.


What are positive guidance strategies that do work?


Thankfully, the best positive guidance strategies in early childhood education are easy for you to implement at home and in your day-to-day routine. Some of the most basic and beneficial strategies include:


Practicing self-control


As we mentioned earlier, it can be easy for you and your partner to feel frustrated, angry, or anxious when your child misbehaves. Instead of reacting at the moment, take a second to model how to deal with those emotions for your kid. Show them how you can take deep breaths, calm down and evaluate the situation. If you feel overwhelmed, leave the room and destress before returning. By showing your child that it’s possible to control your own emotions, you’ll give them an example to follow in the future. You can further this experience by talking them through what happened afterward.


It is setting rules and expectations ahead of time.


How to encourage children’s positive behavior is to clarify what behavior you’d like to see. Sit down with your kid and talk to them about their conduct while setting clear consequences for bad behavior. If possible, ensure the results match the behavior and aren’t overly punitive. Finally, ensure the development is enacted when the behavior is performed to help your child make the connection and adjust their behavior.


Reinforcing good behavior


While this one may sound obvious, it can be easy to overlook. Instead of only pointing out what your kid is doing wrong, make a point to call out when they’ve done something good using clear, descriptive language rather than general praise. For example, if your toddler cleaned up their toys after you asked, you could say, “Good job putting away your toys. You are a great listener.” It will help them connect their action with positive behavior and encourage them to do it more often moving forward.


Showing your little one physical affection


Sometimes, helping your child improve their behavior is as simple as physically showing them they’re loved and cared for; this is especially important if you have an infant who may not understand words of verbal affection. Take time to give your child hugs or cuddles, or if they’re older, hold their hand.


You are listening to your child.


When your child misbehaves, chances are they’re doing so to try and communicate something. So, take a moment to talk to your little one about what they’re trying to say or why they feel the way they do. Acknowledge their feelings and work to help them healthily deal with their emotions. Reinforce that it isn’t their emotions that get them in trouble but how they deal with them. If your child is too young to communicate verbally with you, use context clues to figure out what is bothering them. Typically it’s either a lack of understanding, a physical need such as hunger or sleepiness, an emotional trigger, or a need for attention. Talking through things with your little one will also help reinforce the fact that you’re a resource they can continue to go to with any problems or concerns.


Giving your child options when they’re misbehaving


Depending on the situation, you might be able to divert the issue and encourage children’s positive behavior by giving them two choices that are both examples of good conduct. For instance, when your child keeps walking away from you in public, simply offer them to walk next to you or hold your hand; it will help them feel more autonomous and ensure that their behavior is appropriate. If your child doesn’t listen even after presenting both options, choose for them and walk them through why those choices were offered.


Allowing your child to do things independently.


One of the best ways to encourage children's positive behavior while also helping them develop self-help skills is to let them do things independently. If your little one is stuck on a specific task or unsure how to respond to something, start by prompting them to think through the situation alone. You can ask questions like “what do you think you should do next?” or “what part do you need help with?” Then, provide just enough guidance to get unstuck on their own. Over time, this will help your child develop critical thinking skills and become more confident in their abilities and actions.


Being patient


As with anything in parenthood, positive discipline techniques for early childhood takes time to master. Positive guidance techniques for early childhood are effective but won’t solve everything overnight. Know that you won’t always get everything right and that there will be times when it seems like your child is regressing. Despite it, stay strong and continue pushing forward. Your hard work will pay off in the long run.


What are positive guidance strategies that can help my relationship?


A robust and healthy relationship with your child isn’t just good for their mental health. It can also help them develop necessary social and emotional skills that lead to good behavior. Some of our favorite positive guidance in early childhood techniques that can help strengthen your bond include:


Being intentional about your family time


Children can sense when their parents are feeling anxious, stressed, or upset — and often will unconsciously mirror those emotions. So, it’s essential to set aside regular time to slow down and spend time with your family. It can be as simple as eating a meal together, reading bedtime stories as a group, or just taking the time to talk about the day before bedtime. By spending time together, you’ll also show your child that they’re a priority in your life.


Lightening the mood


If tensions are rising, try lightening the mood by telling a joke your child understands. It will give you both a moment to calm down, reassess the situation, and demonstrate to your kid that not all moments need to be serious.


Giving your child perspective


If you notice your little one is having an especially tough day or having difficulty following instructions, try changing the scenery. Take them for a walk outdoors, put on one of your favorite movies or go for a ride around the neighborhood together. The simple change of pace will help them get out of the mood they might be experiencing, and it will help them realize there is more to life than whatever they’re feeling at the moment.


How can I set myself up for success regarding positive guidance?


After you’ve answered “What is positive guidance in early childhood?” and “what are positive guidance strategies?,” the next logical question is, “what can I do to set myself up for success with positive parenting?” Thankfully, you can do several things to make implementing positive guidance techniques for early childhood easier.


First, we recommend trying to keep as predictable and consistent of family schedule as possible. Toddlers often feel more relaxed when they know what they can expect during the day (which is why so many preschool classrooms have daily agenda). Be sure to schedule an appropriate time for transitions between activities to help keep any tantrums to a minimum.


Parenting can be exhausting, especially when trying to encourage children's behavior. It’s also crucial to practice self-care. Set aside time each day to relax. It will not only help you feel recharged, but it’ll make it easier to stay calm when your child misbehaves.


Are there resources to help me further answer “what are positive guidance strategies?”


Even though your kid didn’t come with a manual to help you solve parenting problems like how to encourage children’s positive behavior, there are plenty of tools out there that can help.


At ParentEducate.com, we’ve created an extensive library of research-based online parenting courses that answer common questions like “what are positive guidance strategies?” and “how can I implement them at home?” All our classes take just 20-30 minutes to complete and are packed with the same tips and strategies taught to the nation’s leading early childhood educators. That means you can learn the same positive guidance techniques for early childhood as the pros! Plus, our courses feature interactive components to keep you engaged, including self-reflection questions, multiple choice “quizzes,” and short videos.


While we have over 100+ courses to choose from, the ones that focus on positive discipline include:



These courses will help answer the question, “what is positive guidance in early childhood?” and “what are the strategies for positive guidance in early childhood?” They’ll also equip you with real-world examples and tools to use in your everyday life to encourage children’s positive behavior.


Are you ready to learn more about positive guidance strategies in early childhood education? Click here to sign up for a free one-week trial and get unlimited access to our courses on encouraging children’s positive behavior, nutrition best practices, mindfulness, and more.