skip navigation
Building Blocks For a Healthy Future Home About Us Links Get Updates Awards
Family Educators Materials
Send this page to a friend E-Mail   |   Print this page Print   |   Subscribe RSS Feed
Animal Characters
spacer Educators photosEducators photos

Lesson Plans
Meeting the Challenge in the Classroom

Most Building Blocks’ Lesson Plans are written to help you instruct your students. This time, the information is meant to help you become more successful working with a child or children to change challenging behaviors to more positive ones. You may elect to do these activities on your own, or, to get greater input and insight, you may want to work with a colleague or complete these activities within faculty sessions.

The ideas included in the following exercise are taken from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (Vanderbilt University). This center has many excellent resources, including professional development activities and modules for teachers.

Example: “For me, it was 6-year-old ‘Harry.’ Harry knew all the right buttons to push and regularly drove me near tears. He talked back, didn’t follow rules, and intimidated other children. Needless to say, I dreaded having to deal with him each day, and I felt frustrated, angry with myself and him, and helpless.”

1. Think of one or two children in your classroom who have a negative impact on you and, therefore, your class.

Consider: What are the behaviors this child or children display that can really “push your buttons”?




How do you feel when you’re faced with these challenging behaviors?




What is the impact of these feelings on your relationship with the child or children displaying these




2. Now, consider practical ways to build a positive relationship with this challenging child or children. How can you make it possible for the two of you to enjoy working together?
Example: “For me, building a relationship with Harry’s mom made me empathize with Harry’s situation and gave me ‘ins’ on things to do that would appeal to him and make him act and react positively with me and the class.”

Which of these ideas might work for you? Select those you’d like to try this coming week:

  • Distribute a “survey of interests” to parents to help learn about things each child
  • Sit and talk with individual children during snack or lunch.
  • Conduct a home visit.
  • Other: __________________________________________________________

    Encourage a child’s positive behaviors:
  • Listen carefully and show appreciation for children’s ideas or stories.
  • Send positive notes home.
  • Post children’s work for everyone to see.
  • Create an atmosphere of sharing for both you and the children.
  • Give specific compliments—“I like the colors in your painting”—rather than “Good
  • Give hugs, thumbs-up, and high fives for good behavior and work well done.
  • Call a child’s parents to say what a good day it’s been, while the child is listening.
  • Other: ________________________________________________________

  • Make “all about me” books.
  • Read a child’s favorite book to the class.
  • Play a game or play outside with a child.
  • Hold a child’s hand.
  • Call a child who has had a bad day and tell them tomorrow will be better.
  • Tell children how much they’re missed when they’re not in school.
  • Other: ________________________________________________________

3. Now, give yourself about a week to implement one or more of the strategies you’ve chosen. Remember, you have to use these positive strategies as often as possible during the day. Evaluate how you’ve done and how it’s affecting your relationship with one or more of the children with challenging behaviors.

  • I have __________________________________________________________

  • I think __________________________________________________________

  • I need to ________________________________________________________

Don’t give up. Challenging behaviors can take long-term intervention for long-term success. If the strategies you’ve chosen don’t seem to be working, try others. Talk to other teachers to get their feedback and ideas. Most important is the fact that you are taking positive action and you will achieve positive results.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
“Acknowledging Positive Behaviors” explores how to reward positive behaviors of children and provides practical strategies for early childhood settings and home environments.

Program-Wide Positive Behavior Support: Supporting Young Children’s Social-Emotional Development and Addressing Challenging Behavior (PDF 4.39MB) provides information about creating a nurturing environment to promote children’s social competence and address challenging behaviors.

Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (PDF 795KB) describes early childhood mental health consultation and the existing evidence to foster healthy social and emotional development in young children.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
The web page for National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day provides materials and resources for families, educators, and communities supporting a comprehensive system of care approach to children's mental health services.

The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (Vanderbilt University) the center gives educators resources and tools about how to promote successful environments that foster the positive social and emotional well-being of young children:

Center for Evidence-Based Practices: Young Children with Challenging Behavior
Preventing Challenging Behavior in Young Children: Effective Practices (PDF 139KB) provides effective classroom strategies for preventing challenging behavior.

Please note—to view documents in PDF format, you must have Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader software. If you do not already have this software installed on your computer, download it from Adobe's website.

spacer Site Map | Contact Us | FAQ | Ask SAMHSA | Accessibility | Privacy | Disclaimer | Viewers & Players | FOIA | Plain Language
SAMHSA Logo   HHS Logo
Updated on 3/22/2014