CORAdvantage Blog Classroom Tips

Family Resources for At-Home Learning: Proactive Solutions to Challenging Behaviors

By Holly Delgado | April 27, 2020

A daily conversation between my husband and my kindergartener:

My husband: “Max, time to put that away and do school work.

Max: “NOOOOO!!! I don’t want to do it!

Then: “CRASH! STOMP! BOOM!” as Max flings his toy across the room and stomps away.

During this time of school closure and disrupted routine, our three children have become increasingly less tolerant and more explosive when asked to complete simple tasks. We suddenly are faced with a refusal to eat what we are serving for dinner, a deep sigh when asked to let out the dog, and an angry defiance when requested to clean their bedroom. These behaviors, although not unusual for young children, are becoming more frequent the longer we remain cooped up with limited outlets for interactions with anyone and anything beyond the four walls of our small home.

So, how do we deal with these challenging behaviors? What can my husband and I do to prevent a simple request from turning into a major explosion?

It is important to remember all behavior is ultimately a form of communication. When a child yells, stomps, throws, or runs away, they are telling us that they are not okay. In that moment, they might be upset, disappointed, or overwhelmed. Their emotions may have gotten the best of them. They may lack the ability to verbally describe the problem and, instead, are acting out their feelings.

The behaviors that we as adults often view as disobedience or defiance, might actually be a call for help. Instead of becoming escalated alongside our child, we need to shift our focus to understand the source of behavior. As the adult, we need to maintain a calm and supportive environment.

In our home, we have found transition warnings and the use of visuals helpful. Instead of springing expectations on our son, my husband now provides him with a countdown: “Max. You have two more minutes to play before it is time to work.” Because time is an abstract concept, using a visual timer – such as a sand timer, egg timer, or a downloadable app on a cell phone or tablet – has helped Max manage his remaining time before he is required to move to the next activity. A visual schedule of our day also helps establish a routine and set our expectations. For more information about how to create a visual schedule at home, visit

We have also found building breaks into Max’s day – opportunities for him to either tune out or exert physical energy – helps reduce his frustration and limits his outbursts. It has become extremely important that my husband and I watch his body language during the time he is engaged in academic or required tasks. When he starts to become fidgety or whiney, we know that it is time to shift gears. At that point, we say something like, “Let’s finish one more problem and then take a break.” In addition to raising our awareness, we have also empowered Max to ask for his own breaks. By honoring his request, we help him gain self-awareness and advocacy skills, as well as let him know we value and trust his judgement.

Encouraging children to make choices is another way to reduce challenging behaviors and help children maintain a sense of control. As adults, we can offer two or three acceptable options and offer them to children as choices. The following are some examples we have used this past week in our home:

Whatever strategies you choose to use, stick with them. Consistency is key in finding a new normal. It may seem hard in the beginning, but it will become easier on both you and your child over time. And when you feel like it is tough, remember, tomorrow is a new day! You got this!

Family Activities Packets

The HighScope and COR Advantage teams have created a packet of activity ideas for your second week. Activities are included for infants, toddlers, and preschool age children. Please watch for this packet of activity ideas to come out each week that children are home from school.

Download: Family Activities Packet 7 (PDF – English)

More Resources

COR 360 is a collection of high-quality tools and resources for early childhood educators. Visit and join COR 360 to download all of our Family Packets, available in English and Spanish, along with a comprehensive library of other resources for professional development and at-home learning.

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From strategies you can implement now, to opportunities to grow professionally and a community of fellow educators to support you, COR 360 will strengthen the quality of your practice and programs.

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About COR Advantage

COR Advantage is HighScope’s flagship observation-based assessment. COR Advantage is the leading research-backed assessment for all children from birth to kindergarten. From comprehensive planning tools to dynamic family engagement, COR Advantage offers a complete picture of child growth for schools and families.

About Holly Delgado

Holly is an Early Childhood and Assessment Liaison as well as a former Demonstration Preschool teacher at HighScope Educational Research Foundation. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Central Michigan and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from Northeastern Illinois. She has spent more than 10 years working in self-contained early childhood special education classrooms, inclusive classrooms, and home-based environments for children ages birth to five. She is a certified teacher in Michigan and Illinois and has experience as an education administrator for Head Start/Early Head Start programs. Holly is currently an adjunct professor of Early Childhood Education at Madonna University.