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SEL Series – Before You Lose Your Cool

Classroom Management for Small Children

I sat in the back of the classroom. I pulled out my pen and paper and began conducting an observation at one of our Learning Center sites.  I can never forget my observation of this class, or really, I’ll never forget witnessing one teacher feeling completely overwhelmed by a robust group of little people. A few things happened that compelled me to tune in more to what was happening in the class. I witnessed, as her back was turned, two students who began fighting over a seat. They chased and feuded with each other and they were non-responsive to her instructions.  She became more anxious and started to yell to gain control over the classroom.  It was very hard for me to watch; I wanted to take over the classroom. Yet that wasn’t what I was there for.

I notated several things I needed to share with her regarding the observation. Nonetheless, this occurrence is one that many teachers can relate to, and it’s important that we understand how to get over that learning curve when working young children. 

Here are a few helpful hints to keep in mind when disciplining young children

Remember they are little

It is our job as parents to modify our children’s behaviors, but it is equally important to do so in an age appropriate fashion. Age plays a fundamental role in cogitative, emotional, and mental development- thus, if we want little ones to listen to us, it’s important that we meet them where they are.  Remembering that a four-year-old kid will be energic, and easily excitable is key to understanding where they are developmentally; this then should help inform your approach for how to manage and target their behaviors while still being caring and safe.


I have found that using the counting trick with kids works! It’s a helpful strategy because it is not about limiting their emotions; it’s about giving them a chance to modify their behavior. It also can help get their attention. You may even want to encourage them to count with you.

Address the bad behavior

Focusing on addressing the specific behavior and taking the opportunity to patiently teach the child why that behavior was wrong is more important that punishment. Children are likely to become repeat offenders if they do not understand why they got in trouble in the first place.


Consistency is key for helping shape behavior.  Parents are a source of structure and stability, thus, being consistent is key for children’s expectations and understanding who makes the rules and why they should be followed. Parents who can control their temper and consistently enforce their expectations and discipline are able to create a more relaxed and structured environment for children to grow up in.

Remember working with little ones takes patience!

Set your boundaries and let them know, again respectfully, if they have crossed lines. Consider seeing a therapist if they still try too hard to manage your life.


Tiana Brown is the Assistant Director of the Norwalk Housing Authority Learning Centers


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