The Red Yellow Green traffic light system schools use for children to understand the consequences of behavior is used by almost every daycare and in some cases elementary kindergarten classes. Some think it’s great that children can see their behavior in chart form so they can modify their behavior. It is another name for a discipline tool, or at best a carrot and stick approach. Green = Prize, Red = punishment.
I’m here to tell you “IT DOESN’T WORK”. In fact it is detrimental to young children. At 2 years of age it’s nonsensical as children at this age are just finding out about sharing and self discipline. At Pre Kindergarten the children should be pushing boundaries and exploring literacy, mathematics, the world and their immediate environment. Mistakes are going to happen on the behavioral front. Maybe the child wants to stay in the library corner as he was just getting interested in a book but the teacher wants him to move to another area, say the block center. Of course the child is going to protest and thus receive a Red Traffic light.
At LakeMary Childcare we see this moment as a teaching moment, not just for the child but for the teacher too. The teacher now understands that this small child enjoys books. A little communication with the child about timings and sharing the library, coupled with a little flexibility explaining the reason why we sometimes have to change centers, (for example, to allow his friend to have a go), would be a more motivating way for the child, than a punishment. The teacher could promise to read his favorite book to him and the class in the afternoon. Teachers can use this as a teaching moment.
We abandoned this archaic discipline system when, one afternoon many years ago, I saw, as the Director, a father of a child come to pick up his young 4yr old son. His first words to him was not “Hello son” but… “ OK! let’s go and see the traffic light chart, see how you’re behaving today”. He was on RED. The boy looked worried as the father pointed to the red sticker against his name and said in a stern voice, ”Right, No Burger King or TV for you tonight young man”. Then I saw the boys shoulders drop, his head went down, as he looked shamefully at the floor and has eyes moistened. He will forever hate his time at the daycare. I saw all the parents rush to inspect the traffic light board, dishing out lavish praise or punishment, which must have seemed extreme for a young child. What a huge mistake to follow the elementary school system of discipline. From that day on we abandoned any system of punishments and would use teaching expertise to nurture children’s positive behavior traits. 20 years of subsequent experience has proven us right. Lake Mary Childcare’s philosophy is one nurturing and teaching rather than punishments for choices made. In ecology and behavioral genetics, researchers think nurture has an essential influence on nature. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_versus_nurture
So even if the child is genetically wired to be argumentative or self centered, nurturing can teach the child how to behave socially in today’s society. Our future needs well adjusted children, willing to learn in a fun way and excited to explore and take some chances, without fear of receiving a dreaded RED.