Setting Limits: The Child Who Won't Stop Clowning
A child who loves to be silly needs to know when it's okay to joke--around -and when it isn't.
- Grades: PreK–K
Dear Polly, I have a little girl in my class this year who never stops clowning mound. Whether the class is reading a story, doing lessons, or having music time, Susie is constantly interrupting with jokes and silliness. What can I do to discourage this behavior?
Could Susie be the next great comedian? Do the other children laugh at Susie's antics? Clowning around can be quite a talent-just look at Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld. Of course it's possible that Susie is deprived of attention at home, and her antics are a way of keeping your eyes on her and getting the attention she craves. Either way, what Susie needs is some help channeling that love of the limelight into more acceptable behavior.
Evaluate Your Routine.
The things you're doing in class-stories, music, a few lessons are important, and they should be fun and exciting for all the children. But Susie's behavior is interrupting the way you do them, and A this may be a sign that you need to re-think your routine. Most young children are naturally active and have trouble sitting still for I too long. Is there plenty of opportunity for the children to move their muscles in between quieter activities? If not, add some dance or more time outside.
Do the children get especially restless during large group activities when they have to wait a long time for your help or attention or to get a turn? If so, you might try reading stories or doing lessons with smaller groups throughout the day instead of all at once.
Pep Up Your Presentation!
We often think of reading stories or doing lessons as quiet, sit-down activities. But they don't have to be. Adding some pep to these activities can help engage all the children and give Susie a chance to shine! Invite the children to get up and help you act out a story instead of sitting quietly while you read it to them. Susie will probably make a great Curious George! Instead of just writing alphabet letters on a blackboard, cut out a bunch of A's, B's, and C's and hide them all over the classroom for an alphabet treasure hunt. Use your imagination!
Have a Heart-to-Heart.
Whether she lacks attention at home or just loves to make people laugh, Susie's clowning shows that she wants your attention and approval. Sit down alone with Susie and explain to her that while clowning is lots of fun, it isn't always appropriate. Give her some examples of inappropriate behavior, some of them humorous: "It's good to take a bath, but you wouldn't want to do it in the supermarket!" "We often eat with spoons, but we wouldn't choose one to eat a carrot!"
Make up a secret code that you and Susie can share to help her determine when funny behavior is and isn't appropriate. You could gesture encouragingly with palms up when she acts out the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" song; gesture palms down when you want her to take it down a notch (i.e., she interrupts someone). Look for opportunities during the day to encourage her humor.
Teaching a class clown like Susie sure takes patience and imagination-but can it ever be rewarding! Hmm ... I wonder what stories Bill Cosby's teachers could tell us!