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Guidance: An Introduction

This lesson introduces the concept of positive guidance and its critical importance in a relationship-based family child care home. You will learn how one’s beliefs about adult-child relationships, knowledge of developmentally appropriate practice, family practices, and cultural context influence beliefs about child guidance. This lesson includes an introduction to Gartrell’s six practices for positive guidance. You will learn that in your role as a family child care provider, your daily interactions are key to establishing partnerships with children and families. You can effectively implement developmentally appropriate, positive child guidance principles in daily care routines and activities.

  • Reflect on your beliefs about child guidance.
  • Describe the influence of your culture, experiences, and knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices on your personal beliefs about child guidance.
  • Define child guidance and how it is a critical component of a relationship-based family child care setting.
  • Describe cognitive reframing and how it can affect your view of children’s behavior.



"No society can long sustain itself unless its members have learned the sensitivities, motivations, and skills involved in assisting and caring for other human beings." - Urie Bronfenbrenner

Reflecting on Your Beliefs about Child Guidance

As a family child care provider, you will need to demonstrate to children and families your commitment to positive guidance. First, it is important to examine your personal beliefs. Reflect on your childhood and think about the important adults you had in your life growing up. Your own childhood experiences, life experiences, cultural traditions, and professional education and training influence your beliefs on positive guidance. Your personal beliefs about child guidance are reflected in your daily conversations with families and in your personal reactions to children’s behavior. You serve as a model for children and families in how to solve conflicts and build a safe, caring community.

Consider the following questions for yourself and the families you serve:

  • How does your own family and cultural background influence your beliefs about positive guidance?
  • What did you find positive about your own school experiences in terms of guidance? Were any of the six practices listed below evident during your school experiences?
  • What do you wish were different about your own school experiences in terms of guidance?
  • How has your education and training prepared you to advocate for and communicate the importance of a positive approach to child guidance?
  • What training and support do you need in order to embrace the six principles of positive child guidance?

Reflecting on your own experiences with child guidance will help you implement positive child guidance practices. Try sharing your thoughts and beliefs with a trusted colleague who also works in the field of family child care. You may be someone that families will turn to when they need assistance with a child’s challenging behavior and with maintaining a positive relationship with their child. Reflecting about your beliefs and background may be a new learning experience or a paradigm shift in how to think about and constructively teach children new strategies and behaviors instead of using punishment to address children’s mistakes. It is important that you have a strong understanding of child development and positive guidance strategies. You can help the families you serve who may be overwhelmed when addressing their child’s behavior.

What is Guidance?

According to Marian C. Marion, positive child guidance is based on principles of developmentally appropriate practice (2013). Dan Gartrell defines guidance as “a way of teaching that nurtures each child’s potential through consistently positive (sometimes firm, but always friendly) interactions; classroom management that teaches rather than punishes.” (2012, p. 156). Adults who use positive guidance in their daily interactions with children accept that a primary goal is to help each individual child to:

  • Feel safe and secure
  • Develop healthy self-esteem
  • Respect themselves and others
  • Learn to cope with a variety of stressors

Interpersonal relationships are key to facilitating the use of positive guidance across the child care environment (e.g., in the family child care home, outdoors, and on community outings). You, as a provider focus on showing respect, warmth, and positive regard toward each individual child.

Your personal values and commitment to the use of positive guidance principles will be evident in your daily interactions with children and their families. Strong interpersonal relationships are essential to bringing these principles to life during daily care-giving routines and activities.

Gartrell in The Power of Guidance (2004), describes six practices of teachers who are committed to positive guidance. In this lesson we substitute the title “provider” for teacher:

Practice Implementation Process

1. Providers realize that social skills are complicated and take many years to fully learn.

Children are learning socially acceptable behavior, and it takes time and practice to develop social skills. Families and providers guide children to learn social skills.

2. Providers reduce the need for children to engage in mistaken behavior.

Providers use developmentally appropriate practices in order to have an appropriate match between the child care’s expectations and the child’s skills.

3. The provider practices positive adult-child relations.

The provider builds relationships with each individual child and models cooperation and empathy.

4. The provider uses intervention methods that are solution-oriented.

The provider models how to resolve conflicts peaceably and encourages children to negotiate for themselves. He or she works at managing and monitoring his or her own feelings and growth as a developing professional.

5. The provider builds partnerships with families.

The provider intentionally partners with families through positive face-to-face conversations and written communication.

6. The provider uses teamwork with other adults.

The family child care provider understands that she or he cannot do everything alone and develops relationships with other adults who serve as resources (e.g., specialized staff at community agencies, installation personnel, etc.). Positive guidance involves teamwork with other skilled adults, especially if a child has consistent, intensive challenging behavior.

As a family child care provider, you model positive guidance in your daily practices. You engage in building partnerships and relationships with families and children. This takes self-reflection and intentional practice over time. For some people, positive guidance comes naturally, while for others it will take practice to develop new ways of thinking about building a community with children in your care.

As a family child care provider, you must take into account individual children’s social and emotional growth and individual development when selecting appropriate guidance techniques. For example, preschool and kindergarten-age children like to help solve problems. They can sustain attention during a fifteen-minute discussion about a problem, such as, “What should we do about a broken tricycle?” In contrast, toddlers have limited attention spans (typically about three to six minutes) so providers use brief, simple directions to guide them during daily routines (e.g., “If you put your shoes on, then we can play outside.”).

Through daily interactions and carefully documented observations, you learn about children’s individual strengths and needs. This information helps you select developmentally and individually appropriate guidance practices. You will better understand a particular child’s behaviors and choose appropriate guidance practices that meet individual children’s social and emotional development. As a family child care provider, your encouragement and emotional support for children who are learning positive social and problem-solving skills contributes to your vision of a relationship-based care environment.

What Does Positive Guidance Look Like in Practice?

Part of positive guidance is creating an environment that promotes positive behavior to minimize the need for adults to spend time reacting to children’s challenging behavior. Positive guidance practices emphasize teaching problem-solving and social skills. They build children’s sense of belonging and membership in the family child care home. In contrast, discipline, or using punishment to control children’s behavior, can be misused by adults with negative consequences for children’s growth and development.

When family child care providers value and use positive guidance practices, they support the development of an encouraging learning environment. The encouraging family child care setting is where children can express and meet their needs in acceptable, safe ways. The child is an important member of a caring community, where he or she feels safe and secure.

  • Children are not threatened with removal from the caring community.
  • Children are not publicly criticized or shamed.
  • Children’s mistakes are seen as developmental and viewed as opportunities for them to learn positive behaviors.
  • Partnerships formed with families and peers are supportive and encouraging.
  • Conflicts are seen as part of living in a community where adults help children learn effective conflict-resolution strategies and teach problem-solving skills.

In the Learn section of this lesson, you will find a handout in which the author provides several examples of intentional communication skills that providers can use in their daily practices to build an encouraging learning environment for children and youth. How might you as a family child care provider use these communication skills in your program?

Thinking about Children’s Behavior: Reframing

It’s important to take time to learn how to reframe your thoughts about children’s behaviors. Negative thoughts about children’s behaviors can bring negative energy into the family child care home. Using negative explanations for why a child behaves in a certain way can cloud your thinking about solutions. Having compassion and understanding about why a child might choose to behave in a certain way allows us to think of positive solutions; it can help us lift our negative mood. When we reframe our thinking, we can turn a negative into a positive.

Cognitive reframing is a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts, and emotions to find more positive alternatives. Simply put, cognitive reframing is a way to change your mindset. Here are examples of cognitive reframing:

Kari (age 2) knocks over a tall block tower that Jaron (age 3) and Keena (age 5) have built on the patio. Instead of assuming that Kari is “acting bad” you can reframe your thinking and view this behavior as Kari trying to communicate that she wants to be included in their play, but she might not have the words to effectively express her desires. You reframe your response by expressing Kari’s desire to play and helping her problem solve what she could do instead, “Kari, you wish you could play with Jaron and Keena. Let’s practice how you can ask them if you can join them when they build with the big blocks.”

Logan (age 7) pushes you as you climb up the back steps. Instead of assuming that Logan is “a mean child trying to hurt you,” you can reframe your thinking and view this behavior as Logan trying to gain adult attention. He has learned that using physical means (pushing) gains him adult attention. One way to address Logan’s actions is to ask him why he pushed you, in an effort gain a better perspective on his behavior. Thinking about Logan’s behavior, you make a plan to pay special attention when he is engaging in positive behavior. “Logan, you are waiting a long time for your turn. When we go outside, I will let you have the first turn using the new basketball.”

Just like all new skills, cognitive reframing takes time and practice. Thinking differently about children’s challenging behavior may provide a new view of what children are trying to communicate. You can use cognitive reframing with all the significant people in your life. It may increase your positive regard for those you care for and cherish.

Positive guidance practices promote children’s social and emotional development. As a family child care provider, you intentionally create a safe, warm, and encouraging environment for all of the children entrusted to your care. You lead others (children, families) in behavioral expectations in your home setting. You hold the key to promoting relationship-based caregiving.


Watch this video to learn more about how positive guidance benefits the social and emotional development of the children in your care.

Positive Guidance: An Introduction

Watch this video to learn the importance of using positive child guidance.


As an FCC provider, it is important to remember that along with a child’s family, you serve as an excellent guidance resource. Younger children require the support of nurturing and responsive adults to help them grow and develop. Older children and youth will look to you to model developmentally appropriate behavioral expectations. You are setting the foundation for every child’s growth and success. When thinking about guidance in your program, consider the following:

  • Get to know all children in your care—observe their actions and interactions and learn about their temperament, interests, and culture.
  • Build in opportunities throughout the day to help children relax.
  • Model positive behaviors, acknowledge mistakes, and demonstrate problem solving in your own behaviors and interactions with children.
  • Embed opportunities for guidance learning throughout your day and provide children with multiple opportunities to express themselves in various ways.
  • Acknowledge, validate, and respond to children’s needs, emotions, and concerns.
  • Remember that children’s behaviors, and in particular challenging behaviors, communicate a message and that it is up to us adults to “decode” and interpret that message.
  • Be sensitive to children’s unique life circumstances and experiences that may influence their behaviors.
  • Arrange your environment in ways that promote children’s success.
  • Learn about the guidance techniques families use at home. You should have an open forum for communicating with families about the behavior expectations and guidance strategies that will be utilized within the program.
  • Inform family members when challenging behaviors occur and discuss possible guidance strategies to implement consistently between your program and their home environment.

Completing this Course

For more information on what to expect in this course, the Positive Guidance Competency Reflection, and a list of the accompanying Learn, Explore and Apply resources and activities offered throughout the lessons, visit the Family Child Care Course Guide.

Please note the References & Resources section at the end of each lesson outlines reference sources and resources to find additional information on the topics covered. As you complete lessons, you are not expected to review all the online references available. However, you are welcome to explore the resources further if you have interest, or at the request of your trainer, coach, or administrator.


Turning negative phrases into positive phrases may not come easily, so it takes daily practice to learn to reframe our thoughts and seek to teach rather than punish. You may wish to set a goal and write down how many cognitive reframing opportunities you undertake across a typical day. When you reframe your negative thoughts and then voice your observations in a positive way, you may notice that the children and families begin thinking differently about challenging behavior, too.

Complete the attached Reframing Activity from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning. Add your own examples to the list. Reframing can reduce stressful thinking, which in turn leads to happy, healthy relationships. Discuss your ideas with a trainer, coach, or FCC administrator.


You may want to share what you have learned in this lesson with families of the children in your care. If you belong to a family child care provider network or community group, you may want to discuss this lesson with your colleagues.

Set a personal goal to reframe your thinking in a positive way about children’s and adults’ behaviors. Track your progress on this goal for three weeks to help you achieve your goal.

After two weeks, do you notice any differences in how the children describe one another’s behavior?

Ask the children’s families if they have noticed any differences in how their children describe others’ challenging behaviors.


Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP):
An approach to teaching that is grounded in how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education
Specific, supportive statements that acknowledge effort and progress
A way of teaching that nurtures each child’s potential through consistently positive (sometimes firm, but always friendly) interactions; classroom management that teaches rather than punishes
Positive Guidance:
Practices that emphasize teaching problem-solving, friendship skills, and community building
Cognitive Reframing:
A way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts, and emotions to find more positive alternatives


Finish this statement: Positive guidance is…
True or False? The guidance strategies you use with children are influenced by your own childhood experiences and personal beliefs.
Eighteen-month-old Reni begins crying as you start to prepare bottles. The crying soon escalates to screaming. How do you respond using positive guidance?
References & Resources

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Harvard University Press.

Center for the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL).

Copple, C. & Bredekamp, S. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8 (3rd ed.). National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Gartrell, D. (2004). The power of guidance. Delmar Learning.

Gartrell, D. (2012). Education for a civil society: How guidance teaches young children democratic life skills. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Marion, M. (2013). Positive guidance in the early years: Using developmentally appropriate strategies. Young Children, 68(5), 6-7.