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    • Describe program-level policies and practices that ensure your staff are knowledgeable of and following positive guidance principles in their interactions with children and youth.
    • Identify leadership strategies you may undertake that demonstrate program-level support for your staff to engage in positive guidance practices with children and youth.
    • Develop a plan for sharing evidence-based information about positive guidance practices with families and staff.




    There is in every child at every stage a new miracle of vigorous unfolding, which constitutes a new hope and a new responsibility for all. — Erik Erikson

    Core Beliefs, Mission and Philosophy

    As the program manager, you will develop and communicate program-level policies and practices to ensure that staff members understand and are able to carry out the core beliefs, mission, and program philosophy in their daily practices with families and children. You will ensure that there is a close connection between program policies and the ways staff members address child guidance in their daily practices. When staff members are new to the program, it is important that they are given a clear vision of your program’s mission and philosophy about child guidance and how that is translated into daily interactions with children.

    Program-Level Supports

    Program-level supports may include:

    • A written staff handbook containing policies that support the core beliefs, mission, and program philosophy
    • A written family handbook containing policies that support the core beliefs, mission, and program philosophy
    • Written hiring, supervision, and staff evaluation policies and practices that are reflective of the program philosophy, with a focus on building a positive community among all employees
    • A concise set of program-level guidelines that all staff and families know and understand (e.g., “All children have the right to be safe”) that reflect the program philosophy about positive guidance principles
    • Written policy and procedure for crisis management should a child be in danger of hurting herself or himself or hurting others
    • Access to evidence-based resources about child guidance for staff and families, such as websites, books, and DVDs that demonstrate positive guidance techniques and effective crisis-management techniques
    • Written procedures, release forms, and assessment and referral processes to ensure collaboration with community mental health providers and school personnel to address issues that may require consultation services for individual children and families
    • Regularly scheduled opportunities for staff to self-assess and reflect on their own child-guidance practices and to develop meaningful professional growth plans

    As the program manager, you create written materials, articulate program guidelines, and assist staff members to connect the program philosophy with their classroom guidelines and daily interactions with children. You also serve as a caring, engaged supervisor by supporting staff members when they encounter children who have persistent challenging behaviors.

    Hunter and Hemmeter (2009), describe several leadership strategies that you as a program leader may use to effectively help staff members translate the program philosophy about child guidance into practice:

    • Demonstrate a commitment to promoting all children’s social and emotional development
    • Regularly recognize and acknowledge staff efforts and contributions
    • Involve staff in shared decision-making
    • Articulate the program’s expectations and goals
    • Work to ensure that staff at all levels of the organization are accountable
    • Use data to make continual program improvements
    • Recognize that changing practice is challenging
    • Maintain enthusiasm, passion, and direction for enhancing staff competency and continuous program quality improvement

    Resources to Support Developmentally and Individually Appropriate Child-Guidance Practices

    Understanding children’s social and emotional development is critical when selecting developmentally appropriate child-guidance practices. As a manager, you collect and share resources to enhance staff members’ knowledge about children’s social-emotional development. The Social Development Milestone Chart (see Learn Section) is an excellent resource you can share with staff and families.

    In addition to this chart, you may want to subscribe to a high-quality practitioner journal that includes a ready-to-use, comprehensive professional development guide (e.g., Teaching Young Children). These articles and materials can be used as discussion starters during staff meetings or professional development activities. It is important to provide your staff with resources, such as brief handouts, about children’s social-emotional development and positive child-guidance practices.

    Connections: Program Philosophy and Child-Guidance Practices

    As you think about creating program-level materials and conducting professional development activities to support staff in their use of positive guidance principles, it is important to remember that the program philosophy about child guidance needs to be implemented through developmentally appropriate practices for each age group that you serve.

    Infants and Toddlers

    When it comes to caring for infants and toddlers, the organizational structure should support a primary caregiving model. The primary caregiving model is one in which a staff member has primary responsibility for a small number of infants and toddlers. The organizational structure might also support continuity of care, in which the same staff members care for the same group of children across multiple years. The nurturing relationships between the staff and the infants and toddlers is the foundation for social-emotional development.

    Organizational structures should promote optimal development for infants and toddlers. You are responsible for leading staff members to understand the importance of building emotionally responsive primary-care relationships. Assigning primary caregivers and keeping small groups of infants and toddlers together as they mature facilitates secure, attached relationships. Hunter and Hemmeter (2009) recommend the following organizational practices that support the social-emotional development of infants and toddlers:

    1. Establish trusting relationships with families
    2. Continuity of care (children remain with the same caretakers across multiple years)
    3. Primary caregiving (a caregiver is assigned to consistently care for a small number of infants and toddlers)
    4. Use of daily experiences and routines to guide the curriculum
    5. Low caregiver-to-child ratios
    6. Staff engage in intentional and purposeful interactions with each child

    Training for staff in responding to children’s temperament, interests, and daily care routines (e.g., sleeping, eating, diapering) helps staff better understand the infant and provides individualized responsive care. Infants and toddlers are naturally curious and love to explore.

    Here are two strategies often used to support infants and toddlers in learning social-emotional skills.

    1. If-Then. Use if-then statements so a toddler knows what will occur next and may be more motivated to cooperate with an adult direction. For example: “Janae, if you put your shoes on then we can play outside in the sandbox.”

    2. Redirection. For example, when Cody, a toddler, walks to an area where Marta is busy building a block tower and tries to knock the tower down, an observant caregiver can entice Cody to play with a new item. The caregiver could hand Cody a box of colorful blocks and say, “Cody, look at these blocks that we can play with.”

    As a manager, you provide teachers with the supervision, resources, and support required to practice effective guidance strategies. Two foundational areas provide a critical framework for all learning and development: self-regulation (physiological, emotional, attention, behavior) and approaches to learning (curiosity and initiative; problem solving; confidence and risk taking; persistence, effort, and attentiveness; creativity, inventiveness and imagination). These approaches to learning should be recognized, supported, fostered, and strengthened in every interaction with a young child.

    Preschool-Age Children

    At this age, children are verbal and able to ask for help and use language to express their feelings. Preschool-age children can take part in establishing a few simple group guidelines for classroom and playground behavior. They can be involved in learning social-emotional skills through multiple routines and activities: books in which characters focus on solving a problem, class meetings and discussions, acting out scenarios (e.g., children not sharing a toy), and engaging in simple problem-solving strategies (see the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning website for examples of simple problem-solving strategies for preschool-age children). Staff-child ratios, developmentally appropriate materials, adequate furniture, lighting, interesting outdoor spaces, engaging curriculum, and age-appropriate games and activities are program-level supports that managers seek to provide for a warm, nurturing environment.

    School-Age Youth

    School-age youth seek to have a voice in setting classroom and program guidelines and can be taught conflict-resolution skills. It is important for adults to allow school-age youth to learn to solve their own issues whenever possible. Posting problem-solving steps may serve as a reminder of how to reach fair solutions. Some school-age youth may want to be trained as peer mediators who help peers solve conflicts. This age group can create a class or school-age youth group list that describes rights and responsibilities to share with staff, families and other youth. One example of a school-age program’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities which can be found in the Learn Section.

    As a program manager, you may host special events focused on topics such as: peer mediation training, anti-bullying strategies, building friendship skills, and addressing peer pressure. Families may be interested in attending events and participating in programs on these topics. Hosting events that are of interest to families also serves as a way of bringing staff and families together.

    Some youth at this age crave alone time; you and the staff may notice that some school-age youth tend to withdraw from large-group games and activities. As children get older and are able to do more of their daily self-care needs (e.g., dressing, eating, problem-solving, etc.), adults often begin to think that children do not need as much attention and guidance from the adults in their life. However, as children grow into later childhood and early adolescence, they continue to need adult support and individual attention. They need to know that you and your staff are adults they can trust and rely upon.

    You should strive to get to know each school-age youth as an individual. It is important to pay close attention to each child in this age group and to focus on building individual relationships with each child. As a program manager, you are a significant person to the school-age youth enrolled in the program. You serve as a safe, trusted adult role model for them. Your knowledge of each youth as an individual can assist your staff and families should any unusual behaviors emerging as they develop into young teens.

    The Relationship Between Program Manager and Staff: Implications for Positive Child-Guidance Practices

    As a manager you oversee the program’s organizational structure and engage in supervision that promotes staff’s ability to implement positive guidance practices. In Lesson One of Guidance, you learned about communication skills teachers can use to build an encouraging classroom. You can model these communication skills when addressing staff, families and children. You contribute to a positive climate when you use a warm, enthusiastic tone when talking with other adults.

    As a program manager you provide program-level support for your staff, which may include the following:


    Provide breaks and opportunities for staff to remove themselves and go to a quiet, calm space if they feel that their stress level is impairing their ability to use positive guidance strategies.

    Team Approach

    Encourage a team approach to addressing guidance questions and developing solutions (e.g., team taught classrooms, mentoring and coaching, meetings with mental health consultants or school district personnel). It is important that staff members do not feel isolated or alone when developing a plan to address a child’s challenging behaviors.


    Facilitate conferences with families when requested by a teacher or by parents to discuss a child’s challenging behavior.


    Commend a staff member verbally or in writing when you notice him or her using positive guidance practices with children.

    Decision Making

    When possible, include staff members and families (perhaps members of a parent advisory group) in program decisions about child-guidance practices.

    Clear Policies

    Be sure that the staff has clear, written policies and procedures for addressing issues such as children’s persistent challenging behavior.

    Positive Climate

    Provide training (e.g., anti-bullying training) to learn preventive measures in order to create a positive climate.

    Build Resilience

    Provide staff training sessions that address self-awareness, mindfulness, and relaxation exercises to learn techniques for building individual resilience and strength to handle challenges.

    Supporting Staff: A Team-Based Approach

    Implementing clear guidance policies and supporting staff in their use helps to create a high-quality program.

    Building Relationships with Families: Communicating About Positive Child Guidance Techniques

    The program manager is responsible for clearly communicating to families what the program’s vision, mission, and philosophy are with regard to child guidance. The family handbook should contain clear written policies for families with regard to:

    1. Beliefs about children’s social-emotional development and the ways positive child-guidance practices support children’s optimal social-emotional development
    2. Information about developmentally and individually supportive child-guidance practices and resources
    3. The classroom practices teachers and other staff rely upon that support the development of children’s empathy, kindness, and acceptance of all individuals regardless of culture, language, or ability
    4. Information about ways families can contact you or staff members if they have any questions or concerns about the program’s child-guidance practices

    Just as staff members may need support to learn to use positive child-guidance practices, families may need information and resources to help them cope with particular behaviors. Many first-time parents are unsure of how to address challenging behavior and may want to meet with you to discuss child-guidance practices. Your interactions model for parents how to speak to and address children when they engage in challenging behavior. Just as you model positive guidance practices for your staff, families also observe you and the ways you interact with them and their children during pick up and drop off times and at program events. You build trust with families by greeting them genuinely each day (e.g., using a positive tone, body language, gestures) and showing families that you take personal responsibility for the safety and security of their child. You also build relationships with families when you comment about the warm relationships parents have with their children. As you get to know individual families, you may feel comfortable commenting to a parent about their use of positive guidance practices when interacting with their child at the program.

    There will be times when you will encounter families who may have different beliefs and values about child guidance. It is always important to respectfully listen to families and to learn what they value to try to address their concerns. However, it is also important that you remain true to the program values and explain to parents that although they may engage in different practices at home, your program will use positive child guidance and rely on teaching children appropriate behaviors through supportive, relationship-building methods.

    The handout, Culturally Sensitive Care (see Learn Section) may help you think about ways you can approach families to learn about their beliefs, values, and practices around child guidance.

    Positive Child Guidance: Partnering With Families

    As program director, take the lead in communicating with families about positive child guidance practices.


    Program managers ensure that staff have evidence-based resources to engage in developmentally appropriate, positive guidance practices during daily interactions with children. Program managers are responsible for providing written and verbal communication to staff and families about program policies that support the use of positive guidance practices. The program manager articulates the connection between the program’s philosophies and how it is carried out through the staff’s caring interactions and use of positive guidance practices with children.

    As an authentic leader, the program manager creates an encouraging environment for staff and families and seeks to build relationships on a daily basis that contribute to the safety and security of all children enrolled in the program.



    Many new staff members describe classroom management as the most difficult part of their job. Implementing positive child-guidance practices may require a shift in attitude and behavior on the part of some staff. Learning to focus on positive guidance practices when a child engages in challenging behavior can create stress within your program.

    Reflect on the ways you might increase your own knowledge about positive child-guidance practices so you can emotionally support your staff. What might you do to feel competent and confident as you model using positive child-guidance practices?

    Examine the questions below and write your responses in your journal. You may wish to share your responses with a trusted colleague (one who works outside your program) or your supervisor.

    • Are there aspects of child guidance that you would like to receive more training?  Where and when can you access this training?
    • What can you do to emotionally support your staff in gaining expertise in the use of positive child-guidance practices?
    • What evidence-based materials might you select to help staff learn about using proactive rather than reactive guidance practices?



    In this lesson, you have learned about the importance of having a program philosophy and mission statement that supports positive child-guidance practices. You also learned the critical role you have as a leader who encourages staff and families to engage in positive guidance practices during their interactions with children and youth.

    Written program materials (e.g., staff handbook, family handbook) should contain clear explanations about positive guidance practices. Share high-quality resources that address developmentally and individually appropriate positive guidance practices with all staff and families.

    Take some time and review the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI) website at After you have reviewed the website, complete the Resources to Support Families and Staff in the Use of Positive Guidance Practices form by selecting three NCPMI resources from that you would make available to families in your program and three NCPMI resources to share with staff in your program. The example in the form below uses this resource as a sample to share with families: You will use the planning form to commit to how you will present the materials you selected to staff and families.


    Approaches to learningChildren’s characteristics in learning situations: curiosity and initiative; problem solving; confidence and risk taking; persistence, effort, and attentiveness; creativity, inventiveness, and imagination
    MindfulnessNoticing what is happening in and around you, including tastes, smells, sounds, sights, bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings; there is no judgment, criticism, or reaction to the situation
    Self-regulationThe ability to effectively recognize, control, and manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors




    True or False? Your program’s child guidance policy should include examples of positive guidance practices for each age group you serve.


    Finish this statement: As a manager, it is your responsibility to…


    Which of the following is a way to provide program level support to your staff?

    References & Resources

    Alber, R. (2014). 20 Tips to Create a Safe Learning Environment. Retrieved from

    Bruno, H.E. (2009). Leading on Purpose: Emotionally intelligent early childhood administration. McGraw Hill: Boston, MA.

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

    Danahy, L. (2014). Mindfulness for Teachers. Teaching Young Children, 8(1), 16-18.

    Gartrell, D. (2004). The power of Guidance: Teaching social-emotional skills in early childhood classrooms. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Learning.

    Hunter, A., & Hemmeter, M.L. (2009). Addressing challenging behaviors in infants and toddlers. Zero to Three, 29(3), 5-12.   This Web site contains excellent resources about bullying for parents, children, teens, and caregivers.

    Technical Assistance Center on Social and Emotional Interventions for Young Children (TACSEI). Retrieved from

    Zero to Three (n.d.). Primary Care and Continuity of Care. Retrieved from