The following are sample handouts from Empowering Programs workshops. Copying this information is permitted for free distribution if the source is included.

Please contact Empowering Programs with questions. Info@EmpoweringPrograms.com

Positive Discipline - That Works! (quick reference guide) (printable PDF file)

Helping Children Develop Healthy Sleep Patterns (printable PDF file)

Biting (workshop handout)

Sharing - A Part of Learning to Own (article)

Open-Ended Questions (workshop handout)

Toilet Learning (quick reference guide)

Toddler Temper Tantrums (article)

Does Media Violence Affect Children's Behaviors? (article)

Understanding the Words We Use with Children (article)

Talking with Children in Times of Violence (printable PDF file)




Goal: The child learns to make appropriate behavior choices
1) Explain inappropriate behavior
2) Give choices for appropriate behavior (look for motivation of behavior)
3) Wait to hear the child's choice
4) Reinforce appropriate behavior
Don't: Give choices the child doesn't like or ones that are not really choices
Allow inappropriate behavior to reoccur
Dwell on inappropriate behavior, giving it attention reinforces it

Goal: Stops the inappropriate behavior and teaches appropriate behavior
Calming device: not a punishment. The child chooses when to return.
1) Explain the technique i.e. "You need to leave this area until you are in control of your behavior." or "You are showing me you need to calm down. Please join us when you are ready to follow the rules."
2) Allow the child to return whenever s/he is ready
3) Reinforce the appropriate behavior i.e. "Thanks for joining us. I like the way you are building."
Model the technique when you need to have a moment to calm down

Goal: Reinforcement to support a specific behavior in hopes of it recurring
Do: Praise the event specifically i.e. "You remembered to wash your hands. I am proud of your behavior."
Don't: Couple with negative comparisons i.e. "That was a nice job for a little boy."

Goal: Clarify the child's feelings to help them solve their own problems
Do: Reflect the feeling and content of what the child is saying and showing with acceptance
Don't: Ask questions, reason, give advice, or encourage action

Goal: Helps child understand their action and its result
Child is responsible for own action
Natural Consequence: Direct result - cold hands resulting from no mittens
Logical Consequences: Provided by the adult, related to the behavior, occurs every time, and acceptable to the adult - putting blocks out of reach for a while when they are being thrown

Goal: Make inappropriate behavior appropriate
Do: 1) Change tool or location
2) Explain why
3) Encourage activity

Goal: Change surroundings/tool to encourage or discourage behavior
Add: Introduce material of child's interest - broaden play areas
Limit: Reduce activity/tool - restrict play to particular area
Change: Add a helping tool - put object within/outside child's reach

Goal: Not reinforcing inappropriate behavior with attention
Do: 1) Ignore it, give it NO attention
2) Praise when behavior becomes appropriate
Cannot used for destructive or dangerous behavior

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Biting is usually caused by a young child, 13-24 months old, that is frustrated or angry. Toddlers typically bite less from feeling aggressive and more from wanting something. They are not old enough to think about their actions. They act quickly and impulsively.

Reduce Frustrations:
Have two of each "hot" toy
Have an ample supply of toys
Offer easy access to many materials
Set clear limits
Have lots of free choice time
Provide clean appropriate teething toys for children to bite
Have many ways for toddlers to work with feelings - pounding tools, playdough, sand, water play
Offer lots of gross motor space and time
Help children learn to calm down, use calming activities, ask the child what would help
Give children words to use to express their feelings
Provide lots of individual attention and affection

Punishment doesn't work. Toddlers are too young to connect their action to a consequence.
In a strong voice, "No biting. Biting hurts." Take no further action with the aggressor.
Get the details, when, who, why, where. A log may help you to see patterns of behavior. Make changes that address any pattern. (i.e. feeding snack earlier if biting happens just before snack.)
Catch the child before he bites. Say, "That would hurt." Then explain what you saw. Give words the toddler might use instead of biting. "I want that toy next." If the child tries the words reinforce them.
Remember that even screaming is better than biting. Go with it.
If the victim is always the same, separate as much as possible. Supervise closely when these children are together.

There is no instant cure for biting. With consistent adult support and time for the child to develop emotionally, biting occurrences do decrease.

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SHARING - A Part of Learning to Own©

Sharing is similar to other milestones in your child's development. Just like the other skills children learn, sharing is a learned quality not a forced project. Allowing children to understand the different ways of owning items builds healthy understandings of possession issues.

Forced sharing is not supporting the adults' goal of helping children learn to socialize. Sharing could be defined as the willingness to involve another person in a cooperative action, usually with a particular object being the focus.

"You need to share" actually works against many of the reasons an adult would say this to a child. This type of statement is really forcing the relinquishment of property. Children learn through their play. Their play is important and meaningful. When a child sits down to notice something as simple as how a ball rolls away from her, she is learning about how her world works. Sometimes an adult comes along and says, "Jenny you have had that ball for a long time. You need to share it with your brother." This underestimates the value of the experience the child was having with the ball. Her "lesson" is not only interrupted but changed because another child was without a ball. "Tell Jenny you would like it when she is done," shows Jenny and her brother respect for their interests and learning. Jenny could be given the words, "You can have it when I am done." These empowering phrases help both children while demonstrating mutual respect for the child's research (which is commonly called play).

So where do children learn to share? Children start to learn about sharing in two different places at the same time. First, children learn through our actions. As parents and careproviders, we often misjudge the value of our modeling. When we model sharing with our neighbors, friends, and children, we teach children in powerful ways. Another way to help children understand sharing is by labeling it when modeling. "I am choosing to share with you." The word choosing is important to include because true sharing is always a choice of the person who has possession of the item. By modeling and citing this action with words we help children understand how fantastic sharing can be.

The second way to help children share is to genuinely praise the action when seeing a child choosing to share. I like to think of this as the sky opening and marvelous words of support falling down. "You just shared! I'm so proud of you! You must feel pleased with yourself. That was terrific." The child may think to herself, "Wow! That felt good. Let's see how I did this and if I can do it again."

A child needs to understand that she owns something before she can understand that it is her choice to include another person in its use. Allowing young children to own or be in charge of toys is important. This is the only way they can experience sharing really works. This, above all else, will promote cooperative ownership of toys.

Sharing is learned when adults model sharing, when children receive encouragement for attempts at sharing, and when children understand that they own and control toys in their possession. True sharing is always a choice of the owner.

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Open-ended questions are a way for adults to support, challenge, explore or augment a child's interest. O.E.Q.s also help the adult find out what a child is thinking about. With O.E.Q.s the child's agenda and ideas should be the focus of the questions.

1. Open-ended questions cause a child to think or ponder about the question.
2. You may know an answer for the question but are looking to the child to think about an issue or subject.
3. The question needs to be asked genuinely.
4. There is no right or wrong answer to an open-ended question.

Open-ended questions often include: how? what? could? would?

Closed-ended questions often include: is? are? do? did?

Closed-ended question
Is it okay to hurt your friends?
Open-ended question
What happens when you hurt your friends?

Closed-ended question
Are classroom scissors for cutting hair?
Open-ended question
Why can't we use classroom scissors for cutting hair?

Closed-ended question
Do you like those?
Open-ended question
Could you tell me about those?

Closed-ended question
Did you enjoy the book?
Open-ended question
What would you like to tell me about the book?

Closed-ended question
Why don't you use another block to help the tower stand up?
Open-ended question
How else could you get that tower to stand up?

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Children who have toileting accidents already feel embarrassed. Often the child learns to cover this feeling. Adult pressure can hurt the situation. The parent/careprovider needs to be aware of how much negative attention the child is receiving for not being toilet learned. This attention can actually reinforce the use of diapers.


Take signals from the child as to when she is ready to begin toileting learning.

Encourage the child's attempts with praise.

Help the child understand what his/her body is doing when defecating in a diaper by using language like, "You are pooping."

Focus on the positive, overlook mistakes.

Model toilet use with parents, siblings, and same age toilet-ers.

Allow for stress free time when the child is in the bathroom without clothes.

Offer reassurances that accidents will stop as she gets older.

Help the child remember other goals and the time it took to accomplish them.

Enjoy the process of the child learning another skill.


Decide arbitrarily when the child should begin toilet learning.

Force a child to use the potty or toilet.

Lose your temper.

Act like a messy diaper is bad, i.e., by discussing how bad it smells.

Bride a child to use the toilet.

Have scheduled sessions of sitting on the toilet. This is too much pressure.

Use criticism or punishment.

Use urine guards on potties for boys. It may hurt the child.

Be overly enthusiastic or give rewards. This is too much pressure for the next time.


15-36 months The child needs to have the interest in learning about the toilet and it's use.

15-21 months The child's body needs to have matured to where she can sense a bowel movement.

24-36 months The child's body needs to be able to contract and release the sphincter muscle.

If one of these three pieces is missing, toilet learning will be stressful and unsuccessful. The most important part of any child's development is the enjoyment of learning. This is a gift we give to children through valuing their struggles and successes.


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Tantrums are built-in healing mechanisms that help children overcome stress

Toddlerhood (12-36 months) is the emergence of self. The child is exploring autonomy and control issues. At the same time the child is still completely dependent on adults for care. This struggle is both wonderful and stressful for the child.

Tantrums can result from a child dealing with pent-up feelings, being over-tired or disappointed. Often many small stresses build until the need for a release is too great to ignore. This emotional explosion is called a temper tantrum.

Tantrums are important and beneficial for toddlers. A tantrum actually helps the child cope with the daily stress of childhood.

Older children have language to express their needs and frustrations. Older children also have the ability to think of ways to get their needs met. The maturing years that follow toddlerhood help children learn self-control and gain emotional maturity.

Adults can help prevent toddler temper tantrums by looking for ways to reduce frustrations. If fighting over a particular toy usually ends in a tantrum, that toy may be removed until the toddler can use it alone. Shopping tantrums are the most public occurrences. By shopping when the child is well rested, fed, and after having some play time, the frustration level is reduced. This may decrease the need for a toddler to tantrum.

Other frustration reducers for toddlers include offering a variety of hands-on, self-directed activities. It is hard for adults to sit and listen for long periods of time. A toddler without all the maturity, stress coping skills, and social development of an adult, cannot sit and listen for longer than a few minutes.
Adults can help toddlers learn non-tantruming ways to cope with stress and frustration by modeling. Adults can take a Calm Down Time when overwhelmed. Adults can talk about what is stressful. Adults can model healthy ways to work with stress like exercise. When toddlers are in environments that have adults working well with stress, toddlers learn sound coping skills.

When a toddler tantrums, ignore the behavior except to insure safety. Giving the behavior attention or giving in to the demands of a tantruming toddler actually reinforces the frequency and severity of the tantrums.

When the tantrum becomes destructive, build your assistance. Holding your hands out to protect your body would reinforce your words. Next, hold the child's hands without using one ounce of effort more than what is required to keep yourself safe. Finally, if the child has not stopped the dangerous or destructive part of the behavior, turn the child away from you and hold her from behind. Building your physical prompts allows the child to regain control of their behavior before you do it for them.

After a temper tantrum, it is helpful to talk about the incident in a respectful and supportive tone. A kiss and a hug let the child know that you understand how difficult coping with stress can be.

It is important for children to be allowed to cry. Children need to be able to cry without being punished, distracted or ridiculed. Tears help children deal with pain and frustration.

A child who has been allowed to cry loudly and freely will be less prone to violent or destructive behavior

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Before the new millennium struck, there were already close to one thousand studies examining this question. The answer is in. Yes, media violence affects children's behaviors. Only 18 studies find no connection between children watching violence on television and how children behave. Of those, 12 of the studies were sponsored by the television industry.

In 19 years of being a teacher of young children, I found the worst influence on my classroom was violent TV. The original malefactors were "Power Rangers" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." The edu-tainment factors in the Turtles were more than 90 violent acts an hour and the Rangers hit the top with more than 211. How could children not be affected? Many days I worked with children who watched punching, kicking, and hitting on television, then acted out these behaviors in my classroom.

Embedded in violent cartoons are some pro-social messages. Unfortunately, research shows that children do not understand these pro-social messages when they are entrenched in violence. When children's focus is on gratuitous violence, there is little room for additional substance.

Kaiser Family Foundation has found that two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of two hours a day, children under the age of six watch an average of about two hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs, and eight to 18 year olds spend nearly four hours a day in front of a TV screen and almost two additional hours on the computer (not counting schoolwork) and playing video games. Like with any activity done for those lengths of time, there will be an effect. To claim otherwise makes little sense.

In contrast, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under two years old not watch any TV and that those older than two watch no more than one to two hours a day of quality programming. That message doesn't seem to have much penetration power.

By some estimates, at the age of 18 our children will view more than 26,000 killings on TV. That's almost four a day. We are raising children in a culture where they are taught that violence is an acceptable - even exciting - way to resolve differences.

Under the age of seven children are easily confused in consistently understanding the differences between fantasy and reality. T.V. can be deemed as real, especially when there are programs in the category, "Reality." What adults understand to be strictly entertaining, is seen by child as the way the social world works.

Research consistently shows three themes,

1. Children who see aggressive problem behaviors on television tend to rely on those behaviors in real-life. Supporting this is two recent studies done on "Power Rangers." One study looked at behaviors on the playground. In the first hour after watching "Power Rangers" elementary school boys engaged in seven times more aggression and violent acts. The second study asked parents about their child's behavior after watching "Power Rangers." More than 80% of the parents polled, responded that, "yes, their children became more aggressive after watching Power Rangers."

2. Children who view T.V. violence see other people as "enemies" and become less concerned about other people's pain. TV violence desensitizes children to the real effects of violence.

3. Children begin to show less remorse about their own and other people's aggressive behaviors after viewing violent television.

As a workshop presenter, I sometimes hear participants saying that they grew up watching television and they are okay. The television we watched 20 or more years ago isn't the same as today's television. When today's adults were growing up, we watched television 5-7 hours a week, there were 26 violent behaviors per hour and most of the violence was slapstick. These numbers pale in comparison to today's television.

So, what are we supposed to do about it?

At the very least, parents should not put the TV in children's bedrooms.

Parents can watch programs with the child and talk about the behavior choices.

Parents may reduce the violent program diet. An example might be, 1-hour a day of violent programming. After that, educational programs may be all that is allowed.

Less affective but a step in the right direction would be, parents making a deal, "You may watch this program as long as you don't act that way."

Parents may also provide media education by offering activities like asking children to count how many times a character hurts another character.

Best solution of all, shut off the darn thing. There are so many other things to do in childhood. Let's not forget the importance of building with Legos, stomping in puddles, reading a book, drawing to music, or riding a trike. Every piece of childhood that is stolen from a child can never be returned.

The television networks have abandoned the 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. family hour. Often sexual content of an 8:00 sitcom happens in the introduction, leaving our kids to overhear adult humor. The commercials shown during 4:00 - 8:00 often depict inappropriate programming for children.

We cannot expect the TV industry to take responsibility for the violence in programs that are producing bottom line income for their business. Nor should we expect government to censor the television programming. Assuming that the TV will continue to bring violence and other unwelcome themes into our homes, children need us to take a stand. "I don't think this program is okay for children. Let's find another activity."

Right up there with sleep debt, noxious additives in low quality foods, and stressful / inappropriate children's environments, I put entertaining children with violence as a main reason children are having such a hard time learning to make good behavior choices. If we could knock out those four elements, children would have a much better chance successfully negotiating the challenges of childhood.


What a Difference a Decade Makes, Parents Television Council
Focus on Violence by Youths, University of Colorado
The Unprecedented Epidemic in Youth Violence, Chicago, University of Chicago Press
Youth Violence Is a Public Health Concern, New York, Cambridge University Press
Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2000, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
NAEYC Position Statement on Violence in the Lives of Children, NAEYC

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Intentional Language - Understanding the Words We Use with Children©

Remember what your parents, teachers, coaches, babysitters and careproviders said to you? "Don't be a baby." "I'll give you something to cry about." "Why don't you act nice like your sister?" Those words and the feelings surrounding those words have lived with us for years. The phrases we use with children today will have the same impact years from now with the children in our care. It is important for us to say exactly what we mean. There are many common phrases we use hundreds of times a week with young children. Some of these could be tuned up.

"Good boy"
Is the boy good or are his actions? Believing that children are innately "good," it is really the behavior that we are trying to encourage. It is important to separate the regard for the child's behavior from the child's intrinsic worth. This helps the child build a firm sense of self. If the child's behaviors were something we would want to recur, it is helpful cite them specifically. "Great job picking up the blocks!"

Think of the difference between, "You are nice," and "Helping your friend join the game was thoughtful." When the behavior is cited specifically, the child knows exactly what was appreciated.

"Isn't she cute?"
This phrase ends up linking the child's sense of importance to how physically attractive she or he is. Physical attractiveness has nothing to do with the child's value. Let's not have children feel more or less significant because of the way they look.

"Tell him you are sorry"
If the child is not remorseful, this teaches the child to use false words to "get out of trouble." If the child is feeling sorry, then we could give her the words to use. When a child is not sorry for her actions, we may better help the situation by explaining choices for appropriate behavior. The best way to teach children manners may be by modeling good manners to them and encouraging an honest apology when it reflects sorrow for the behavior.

"You need to share"
There is a developmental sequence of ownership. Children need to learn how to own objects before they can understand how to share them. True sharing needs to always be a choice of the owner. Forced sharing is actually relinquishment of ownership. We can model sharing with children and then praise the child's attempts at cooperative possession.

"That didn't hurt"
Many of us did not have a childhood filled with all of our emotions being accepted. We know it is helpful to accept all children's feelings. This builds emotionally healthy children. There are no bad or wrong feelings. Anger, interest, disinterest, loneliness, frustration, hunger, pain, and sorrow are all acceptable.

If a child's fall did not appear to hurt, we could cite it as "scary." All feelings are fine and normal to have. It is what children choose to do with the feeling that makes it either appropriate or inappropriate on a behavioral level.

We need to save this word for immediately dangerous situations. Children's behavioral compliance is dramatically increased when we follow a "no" command with an explanation of why. "I can't let you cross the street here. It is not safe."

"It is time to go outside, O.K.?" If it is not really a question, make it a statement. "It is time to go outside." Asking a child if something is O.K. when it is not really a choice does not cultivate respect.

"You need to . . . "
"You need to pick up the blocks." Is this really the child's need or mine? If it is my need, I can state it as such. "I need you to pick up the blocks."

"You guys . . . "
Watch out for sexist remarks. These gender specific nouns help reinforce stereotypical and possibly inferior sex roles. When addressing a mixed group it is helpful to use appropriate titles. "My group," "preschoolers," "you all," or "hey gang," may be a better address for the whole group.

There are many other expressions we use every day that could use a tune up. "I am not going to say this again." "Don't be scared." "Because those are the rules." "What do you want me to do about it?" It is not easy changing expressions we have used every day for years. Nevertheless, it is worth the effort.

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