Pre K-2nd Grade

Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 2 Behavior

How can I help my child at home?

Children engage in challenging behavior in early elementary grades for a wide variety of reasons. A child's behavior is generally a way for them to get their needs met. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) provide ways for children to meet their needs in ways that don't result in "acting out" behaviors. School districts are increasingly using these approaches as ways to help reduce challenging behavior and increase appropriate behavior. Using these approaches at home may also be effective at improving your child's behavior.

Suggestion #1

Clearly State Your Expectations In Advance
Children sometimes ignore directions if they are general or if they require multiple steps. Give your child one clear instruction so that he knows exactly what it is that you want him to do.

Over the course of the afternoon, your child's toys have been tossed aside and left scattered throughout the room. When you say, "Come on Alex, it's time to get ready to go!" he ignores you completely and continues to play. A better approach might be to say, "All right, time to get going. Alex, let's start by putting the trucks in their box. There is one there in the corner." Then follow up with other requests for him to do all the things you would like before you leave. Remember to give the requests one at a time.

Suggestion #2

Use "First...Then" Statements
A "first...then" statement is a simple instruction that tells your child what she must do in order to earn a desired consequence (what she wants to do). When you use a "first...then" statement, be sure you:

  • Give it a positive focus
  • State it only once
  • Set a reasonable time limit
  • Follow through

Your daughter starts to go outside before putting her shoes on. You stop her and say, "No...put on your shoes." She starts to throw a tantrum. Here's an alternative approach you might want to use next time. "First you put on your shoes, then you may go outside." This way you are not just saying "No". You are letting her know what needs to happen in order for her to reach her goal.

Suggestion #3

Catch Your Child Being Good
Did you ever stop to think about how much time you spend telling your child what they should not do? Punishment serves only to interrupt behavior, but it doesn't improve behavior. Instead, try giving specific, positive attention to the behavior that you want to see. This will teach your child what you want him to do and increase the likelihood that this behavior will occur again. Praise should include your expectations, be descriptive and genuine, state what they did successfully. 

You watch your son playing with his younger sister. They may occasionally argue as young kids will do. You wait to say anything until your son hands his sister a toy and say, "Manuel, I really like how you shared that toy with your sister!"

Suggestion #4

Stay Calm and Be Consistent
When your child's behavior is unacceptable, keep in mind that when it comes to parent response less is more. Acting calm will reduce the risk of strengthening the very behavior you wish to discourage because it puts less attention on the behavior. When you remain calm, you model for your child appropriate ways to respond to difficult situations. It can be difficult to react calmly to challenging behavior. To help yourself remain calm, keep your verbal responses short and specific to the behavior. You will also find that when you are calm, you are much better able to be consistent with your consequences. It is important to remember it is not the intensity of the consequence that gives the consequence power; it is the consistency that the consequence is given.

You have a family rule of no hitting. You have explained to your children that if the rule is broken, there will be no TV for the evening. Brother hits sister. Mom calmly reminds him of the rule, and does not allow him to watch TV even though he begs and cries.

Suggestion #5

Talk To Your Child About Their Behavior When Everyone Is Calm
Calm time cannot be found in the middle of a difficult situation that is filled with strong feelings. Instead, talk when everyone is calm enough to think and talk and listen. This can occur either before or after a child's problem behavior occurs, but not during. You can use these times to talk about positive ways to handle problems in the future.

You are sitting on the sofa reading books with your daughter when you look up at the clock and realize it is 8:00 - bedtime is approaching fast. Getting Emma to brush her teeth each night has become more and more of a struggle. As you hold her on your lap you say, "Almost bedtime kiddo. Hey, tonight Mommy is going to brush her teeth at the same time you do. It'll be fun for us to do it together!"

Suggestion #6

Give a 3-5 Minute Warning Before Starting a New Activity
It can be difficult for some children to stop what they are doing and start a new activity, especially if they are doing something they like and must switch to an activity they do not like. 

Tell your child that they have three more minutes before (dinner, brush teeth, etc.), and have them repeat back how many minutes and the name of the next activity. You may want to use a timer that counts down the time and beeps or vibrates when the time is done to help remind both you and your child of your activity change.


Are you worried your child may have been or is being bullied? Has it been reported to you that your child may have bullied or is bullying others? Bullying is a serious problem, and all adults have a role in helping to stop it. The Center for the Study and Prevention of School Violence (2008) uses three criteria to distinguish bullying from other occurrences of misbehavior or isolated cases of aggression:

  1. It is aggressive behavior or intentional harm-doing.
  2. It is carried out repeatedly and over time.
  3. It occurs within an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance of power.