At The School of Grace, we believe that praise, redirection and conferencing with children are the most effective methods of helping them develop healthy, safe relationships with adults and peers.  We recognize that being present and encouraging are the basis for such an environment.  Everyday, we seek the best in each child, enabling them to succeed to their greatest potential.

Through praise, we:

  • Acknowledge the behavior we want to see, for example, “John, you are picking up toys and putting them on the shelf. You are helping.”
  • Recognize specific behaviors, rather than give general accolades. For example, “Look at you, you are stacking the blocks higher and higher” rather than “That’s great!”

Through redirection, we:

  • Guide children away from what might become inappropriate behavior, encouraging them to try a new activity or play in a new area of a room.
  • Approach activities with curiosity and enthusiasm, leading children to do the same.
  • Help children realize when they need a break from an activity, encouraging them to return when they feel calm.

Through conferencing, we:

  • Help children recognize each other’s feelings by focusing on body language and facial expressions. We say, “Look at your friend, he is crying.  He is sad.  How can you help him feel better?”
  • State what we observe, rather than what we assume happened, supporting the children as they seek positive ways to interact.
  • Help children reflect on their choices to determine the natural consequences. We say, “When you throw the toy, it might break.  I will hold the toy until you are ready to take care of it.”
  • Encourage children to use their voices to state their feelings. We say, “When your friend takes the toy away from you, say ‘Stop, I don’t like that’.
  • Identify desired behavior. As Dr. Becky Bailey says, “You get what you look for.”
  • Help children resolve issues with each other, encouraging them to choose from several options, such as touching gently, picking up a toy or apologizing. We do not force a child to say “I’m sorry”, but offer it as one of several choices.

Problem Solving Skills

Children cannot problem solve when they are in an angry state.  First, we must give them strategies for calming, such as breathing techniques, yoga poses, sensory toys and a calming place in each classroom.  Next, we make a connection between the children involved.  Then, we talk them through problem solving, whether it involves a friend or a choice that the child made.

Our goal is to help children learn to use their “big voice” to state what they like and what they don’t like, ask questions, seek assistance and collaboratively problem solve with their peers and teachers.

For example, if “Child A” takes a toy from “Child B”, the teacher will get on the same level as the two children and have a conversation similar to this:

“I hear both of you screaming.  Let’s stop, take a breath-in through your nose and blow it out through your mouth, then relax.  Child A, you took the toy from your friend.  Look at your friend.  S/he is crying/making this face (teacher matches Child B’s expression).  S/he doesn’t like that.  Give the toy back to your friend.  You can say, ‘May I have that toy when you are finished?’”  Then, the teacher will help Child A practice saying those words (or a shorter version, based on his/her verbal skills).

With more verbal children, the conversation might be adapted to include:

“Child A, look at Child B.  Child B, tell Child A that you don’t like it when s/he takes the toy from you.

If a teacher doesn’t know what happened (ex.  who took a toy), s/he will still let the children tell each other how they feel and discuss possible solutions until they have solved the problem.

We also want the children to learn how to show compassion.  Through modeling, conversation, role play and reading stories about social interactions, the children learn to ask a friend if s/he is o.k. and offer solutions.

These skills are encouraged beginning with the Infant/Toddler Class.  Each year, new skills are added.

Our purpose here is not to simply solve the problem in the moment that it happens.  Our purposes are

  • To foster the development of skills that help each child speak up for themselves, appreciate their peers, recognize that they can be helpful and show compassion.
  • To help children understand that s/he has the power to calm him/herself and assist others.
  • Equally important, we want each child to know that s/he is a valued member of our school family

Our strategies for problem solving are based on Conscious Discipline, which is the result of research by Dr. Becky Bailey.  For more information about Conscious Discipline, go to