What do I do about a kid who…?

 by Susan Kay, SEED Coach & Evaluation Specialist, Denver’s Early Childhood Council

Susan Kay

It might be a phone call to our Help Desk, a plea from someone who grabs me after one of my workshops, or even a question from someone I meet at a social event who finds out I work with the social-emotional development of young children.

“What do I do about a kid who…?” Here, you can fill in the blank with, “bites,” “won’t take a nap,” “hits other kids,” or any other of the myriad ways that children demonstrate what we call challenging behavior.

The first answer that always pops into my head is, “I have no idea.” That’s because challenging behavior can be a complex issue and there are no quick fixes, no magic bullets, no one-size-fits-all approaches to eliminating it. The first step is to figure out what is driving the behavior for this particular child and then to address those issues.

Doing a full-blown Functional Behavior Assessment (the process to determine what is driving a child’s behavior) takes time, effort, and expertise. In the meantime, an Early Care & Education (ECE) teacher might be dealing with challenging behavior that is happening RIGHT NOW! And if she doesn’t get some ideas soon, she just may start considering that job at the corner grocery store! (In fact, increasing behavior problems and lack of support in addressing them is one of the main reasons that ECE professionals leave the field.)

Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are some evidence-based practices and approaches that have been shown to increase children’s social skills and decrease their challenging behavior. To help teachers get started, Denver’s Early Childhood Council has recently released a brief publication entitled, “What To Do about Challenging Behavior in Early Childhood: A Brief Guide for the Classroom.”


Based on the Pyramid Plus Approach, this guide is designed to give you some new ways of thinking about challenging behavior, suggest some strategies to try, and point you in the right direction as you continue. It presents some of the “Big Bang” strategies (strategies that will yield positive changes right away) from Pyramid Plus as well as many resources and links to help you learn more.

Please feel free to download, print and distribute this document. I recommend you view it on a computer, however, as all the links are live, enabling a more interactive experience.

If you are dealing with children’s challenging behavior, my number one recommendation is to take the complete Pyramid Plus Approach training (click here for trainings in the state and here for Council-sponsored trainings in Denver) to gain a deeper understanding and a wealth of strategies to use. To get started, try some of the strategies described in the Guide to experience firsthand the power of this positive, supportive approach.

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