Dear Stacey, I enjoy taking my fours class on trips all over town. But as soon as we're out the door, one child, Shari, runs off. She hangs back until the group passes and then hides behind something - or simply wanders off on her own. Once we reach our destination, she's loud and can't keep her hands to herself. Her behavior makes trips difficult and is a real surprise to me since she behaves so well in the classroom. What can I do? - Amelia
Dear Amelia, Many children find comfort in their classrooms. The daily routine, size of the room, and scale of the equipment foster a sense of trust and security. As a result, most children are able to behave appropriately in a well-planned child-care program. Some children really need this structured environment to know what is expected. Take the same child out into the big wide world and you may witness a totally different set of behaviors.
The classroom rules aren't discernible to Shari when she's outside. As a result, she probably feels out of control and is pushing to find the limits. Providing more structure will help Shari feel the same security outside the classroom that she experiences within it - and will enable her to control her behavior. Try these ideas:
Review and explain the rules. Setting limits begins with identifying a few simple rules and stating them in a positive way. Consider these: "Use your walking feet." "Stay with the group." "Keep your hands by your side." "Use your inside voice." Remind Shari of these rules before every outing.
Rehearse and prepare. Let children know what to expect on the trip. Talk about where you're going, what you'll see and do, and when you'll return to school. I recently saw a teacher and her assistant put on a puppet show in which one puppet asked the other questions about the field trip the group was about to take. The teacher followed up by asking children about the show: "What questions did the puppet ask? What did the other puppet say would happen on the trip?"
Stay close and give cues. Keep Shari and any other children who have trouble following the rules in sight. When children break a rule, offer a calm cue to help them stay focused, such as "walking feet" or "inside voice." Chances are, Shari will appreciate your constant presence and reinforcement.
Set up a buddy system. Assign children partners and have them hold hands. Pair Shari with a child who is likely to follow and reinforce the rules.
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