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Targeting Children’s Behavior Problems in Preschool Classrooms In Short… A study that taught teachers how to manage behavior problems

in the classroom, that provided them with coaches who supported their use of the techniques, that gave them stress reduction workshops, and which directly helped children with behavior problems worked to reduce behavior problems in the classroom. The intervention may help children adapt better to school, change their challenging behavior, and eventually succeed academically. The Issue: When young children go to school they have to sit still, listen to the teacher and their classmates, understand and obey rules, and get along with others. Many arrive unprepared to meet these new expectations. Programs designed to improve the academic achievement of economically disadvantaged children can be derailed because the children cannot meet the expectations for behavior. The children may not be able to learn because they have serious emotional as well as behaviour problems. They may come from chaotic homes where they receive little care; they may come from homes in which there is domestic abuse. They may live in states of chronic fear in their violent neighbourhoods. Teachers who encounter these children may not have received any training in classroom management and may not know how to help them change their behavior. The teachers may respond with frustration and anger, inadvertently escalating the problem. The teachers may, in turn, feel stressed and unsupported. The Research: This was a U.S. study of a training program for teachers that would help them reduce preschoolers’ behaviour problems. The project was carried out in 35 classes in 18 schools, each of which had Head Start classrooms. Eighteen of the classrooms participated in the interventions, 17 classrooms served as the controls. The intervention consisted of 4 components: 1) teacher training in behaviour management; 2) teacher coaches who helped with the use of new behaviour management strategies; 3) stress reduction workshops for the teachers; and 4) specific treatment for the children with the greatest emotional and behavioural problems. The Results: Compared to the control group children, the children in the intervention group showed reduced internalizing behaviour problems (e.g., sadness or withdrawal) and externalizing behaviour problems (e.g., aggression, defiance). These behaviours are associated with school failure. The results should be considered highly “promising” and should translate into better educational and social outcomes for the children.

The preceding is a summary of: Raver CC, Jones SM, Li-Grining C, Zhai F, Metzger MW, Solomon B. Tageting Children’s Behavior Problems in Preschool Classrooms: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2009; 77(2): 302-316.