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7 Essential Features of an Effective Guidance Policy

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The primary focus of any early childhood program is to care for and educate the young learners enrolled in the program. Caring for and educating young children is rewarding yet difficult work; however, it is critical that systems are in place to support the children, families, and staff to be their very best. One way to support both teaching and learning and to prevent and address challenging behaviors in early childhood programs is through an effective, high-quality behavior-guidance policy.

Sascha Longstreth, PhD, and Sarah Garrity, EdD, explore how to create a system that supports young children's social-emotional competence in their book Effective Discipline Policies.

Longstreth and Garrity acknowledge that it is too time consuming to sort through twenty years’ worth of evidence to decipher specific essentials to include in a behavior-guidance policy. For this reason, the authors developed the Teaching and Guidance Policy Essentials Checklist (TAGPEC). The TAGPEC is an easy-to-use, thirty item checklist that describes seven essential features of high-quality behavior-guidance policies for programs serving children from birth to age eight.

Below are the seven essential features of high-quality behavior-guidance policies:

  1. Intentional Focus on Teaching Social - Emotional Skills
    • Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should reflect an instructional, proactive approach to behavior guidance that supports the learning and practice of appropriate prosocial behavior of all children, regardless of individual differences and/or cultural and linguistic backgrounds. 
  2. Developmentally and Culturally Appropriate Learning Environment
    • Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should describe the importance of a developmentally appropriate learning environment that is predictable, engaging, and relationship based. 
  3. Setting Behavioral Expectations
    • Early Childhood behavior-guidance policies should describe clear and consistent expectations for behavior.
  4. Preventing and Addressing Challenging Behaviors Using a Tiered Model of Intervention
    • Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should identify primary, secondary, and tertiary preventative and intervention practices for promoting prosocial behavior and reducing challenging behavior in young children. 
  5. Working with Families
    • Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should reflect the family-centered nature of early childhood education.
  6. Staff Training and Professional Development
    • Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should indicate a commitment to providing ongoing staff training and professional development regarding how to implement the guidance policy.
  7. Use of Data for Continuous Improvement
    • Early childhood behavior-guidance policies should reference the use of a data-collection system by which the relative success or failure of the behavior-guidance policy will be evaluated

To find out more information about the TAGPEC and other ways to create a high-quality behavior-guidance policy, check out Effective Discipline Policies.



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