Proactive techniques of behavior management

Realizing everyone has needs, we can look at techniques developed for children with special needs to use in our classrooms for any child.


Based on Sally Patton’s book Welcoming Children With Special Needs, A Guidebook for Faith Communities.


Teaching the anxious child

All children experience anxiety sometimes. Some are excessively shy, have difficulty separating from parents, have routines that are very important to them, or have a difficult time looking problems from new angles.

  • Establish clear expectations, predictability and security
  • Develop opportunities and activities for problem solving
  • Create ways for children to connect with others
  • Provide ways to foster self-esteem.
  • Include visualization and guided meditation
  • Model positive self-talk
  • Provide joyful music
Teaching difficult or disruptive children


Children who constantly act out are usually performing behaviors that they have learned will protect their dignity.





  • Provide indirect praise for desired behaviors
  • Reward direction, not perfection
    Be generous with your attention
    Do not compare one child’s behavior with another’s
    Listen to a child’s story
    Find each child’s “island of competence”.
    Develop a proactive positive behavior support plan
    Use guided meditation
    Change your proximity to the child who is being disruptive
    Limit the number of questions a child can ask
    Establish a routine to get the attention of overly noisy children
    Turn out the lights
    Clap your hands 3 times and say, “If you can hear me, clap your hands.”
    Tell the children to close their eyes
    Redirect them
    Get the child to commit to the behaviors you want
Teaching children with learning disabilities


Our culture prizes verbal and logical modes of learning and these modes dominate our schools and even some of our RE curriculum. Children who think and learn differently may come to see themselves as deficient or even stupid.


  • Avoid having children read aloud in class
  • Tell stories where you can – or have children act out stories
  • Use visual cues in the rooms to represent themes of the lessons.
  • Give one set of directions at a time
  • Avoid writing activities or provide alternative methods of expression or offer to scribe


Teaching children on the autism spectrum


Children with autism display a wide range of behaviors. They show difficulty in the use and understanding of language and so have difficulty interacting with others. The may be more or less sensitive to sensations than others.

  • Make expectations clear but realize that children act badly because they don’t understand what to do.
  • Ignore the label. Children behave differently, so don’t expect them to avoid eye contact, for example
  • Limit interruptions in the lesson
  • Be aware of the noise level
  • Offer structure
  • Create a climate of love and acceptance
Teaching children with motor disabilities
  • Don’t ignore or stare
  • Don’t talk over their heads
  • Keep the floor uncluttered
Teaching children with visual impairments
  • Use concrete examples
  • Make sure the child is aware of who is in the room
  • Use a gentle touch to get a child’s attention
  • Maintain consistency in how the classroom is arranged
  • Avoid being too helpful
Teaching children with hearing impairments
  • Use many colorful and engaging visual cues
  • Use gestures consistently
  • Keep the order of activities consistent from session to session
  • Don’t cover your mouth with your hands when you talk
  • Foster respect when anyone is talking
  • Do not pretend to understand what a child has said if you do not



About Leah

Leah and her husband, Kevin Purcell, live in Albany. They have two grown daughters that were raised at Albany UU. Leah has served as DRE at Albany UU since 2007; before that she worked in both private and public schools. She served as Chair of the Seaway Chapter of the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) and now serves on the LREDA Board.

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