Behaviors That Challenge Children and Adults
A Model for Supporting Social Competence
and Preventing Challenging Behavior
in Young Children
Mary Louise Hemmeter,
Gail E. Joseph,
and Phillip S. Strain
Lise Fox, Ph.D., is a research professor with Louis de la Parte Florida
Mental Health Institute at the University of South Florida in Tampa. She
conducts research and training and develops support programs focused
on young children with challenging behavior.
Glen Dunlap, Ph.D., is a professor of child and family studies and
director of the Division of Applied Research and Educational Support at
the Florida Mental Health Institute. ...view middle of the document...
These teachers spend
much of their time addressing the behaviors of
a few children, leaving little time to support the
development and learning of the other children.
Increasing evidence suggests that an effective
approach to addressing problem behavior is the
adoption of a model that focuses on promoting
social-emotional development, providing support for children’s appropriate behavior, and
preventing challenging behavior (Sugai et al.
2000). In this article we describe a framework
for addressing the social and emotional development and challenging behavior of young children. This pyramid framework includes four
levels of practice to address the needs of all
children, including children with persistent
challenging behavior (see “Teaching Pyramid”).
The following example demonstrates how to
implement this model in a preschool classroom.
Emma, a preschool teacher of two- and three-yearolds, takes time to greet every child and parent on
arrival. She talks to the child briefly about the
upcoming day or events at home. Emma is committed to building a nurturing and supportive relationship with every child in her class [Level 1].
The classroom is carefully arranged to promote
chil-dren’s engagement and social interaction.
When children have difficulty, Emma first examines the environment to make sure that the
Young Children • July 2003
problems are not due to
Implementing classroom preventive practices
classroom arrangement or
The critical importance of the classroom environthe structure of an activity
ment, including adult-child interaction, is well estab[Level 2].
lished in early education (Dodge & Colker 2002). Many
A few children in the class
early childhood educators are aware of the relationship
seem to need instruction on
of classroom design to challenging behavior. They use
playing with peers, coping
with anger and disappointclassroom preventive practices, including specific
ment, and using social
adult-child interactions and classroom design, to
problem solving. Emma uses
support development and use of appropriate behavior.
a curriculum that includes
The combination of giving children positive attention
strategies and activities for
for their prosocial behavior, teaching them about routeaching specific social
tines and expectations, and making changes in the
skills, and she is confident
physical environment, schedule, and materials may
that this helps those children make progress [Level 3].
encourage children’s engagement in daily activities and
Although most of the children are doing quite well in
prevent or decrease the likelihood of challenging
her classroom, Emma worries about her ability to
behavior (Strain & Hemmeter 1997). A teacher who
meet the needs of one child who often screams and
examines the impact of the environment may
hits the other children. With the help of the direcIntensive
make simple changes that...