Navigating the waves of preschool behaviour: Helping little learners stay on course

Bella Heim

Bella Heim

Bella is a mummy of three, writer, and photographer. She's not afraid to admit that she relies on a little red wine to keep the chaos of motherhood at bay. When she's not dodging toys and dirty diapers, you'll find her documenting the wild and wonderful ride of parenthood, and adding a splash of inspiration, creativity, and a healthy dose of mum humour along the way.
Updated on Jan 21, 2024 · 7 mins read
Navigating the waves of preschool behaviour: Helping little learners stay on course

Ahoy there! Before becoming a mummy of three crazy kids, I was once a preschool teacher, sailing endless seas of imagination, laughter, and creativity with my precious little pirates each day. It was an adventure and was easily one of the best experiences of my life. There was never a day that was dull with those little people. But even the most experienced pirate captain can encounter rough waters, and in the classroom, those rough waters come in the form of different waves of behaviour problems.

From tantrums to interruptions, from not following rules to not paying attention, I’ve seen it all! But the good news is that I’ve also seen how with the right guidance, these little buccaneers can learn to navigate the seas of behaviour and become well-behaved, confident learners!

So, let’s dive into some of the most common behaviour problems that we often see with these little pirates, what may cause these behaviour problems, and how we can help them.


Well, I guess you are not surprised! Throwing tantrums is a part of their quest to conquer the world! And tantrums don’t just happen at home (or just in the middle of the supermarket), it also happens in the classroom, and they are often a result of frustration, a lack of control, or a desire for attention. Little people throw tantrums to express their frustration and anger especially when they feel like they don’t have control over a situation (like getting a biscuit because that’s what he asked for. You know what I mean). The good news is that tantrums are a normal part of their development and they are still learning and exploring how to express their emotions in appropriate ways. When a preschooler throws a tantrum, it’s like they’re screaming “I’m feeling overwhelmed, and I don’t know how to handle it!” By providing a supportive and calming environment, you can help the preschooler regulate their emotions and learn to handle frustration in a healthy way.

Not following rules

Preschoolers are still figuring out the ropes of rules and boundaries. They are still in the quest to understand that there are consequences to their actions and might push the limits just to see what happens (and it’s fun for them!). With such adventurous spirits, and being naturally curious as all preschoolers are, of course they love to explore their surroundings, and it’s no surprise that they might forget about rules (and who likes rules, anyway?)!  Just try your best to establish clear and consistent rules from the start and to reinforce them through high fives and time outs. This is going to slowly help your little preschooler understand the importance of following rules and make it easier for them to do so.

Interrupting others

As preschoolers navigate the seas of social interaction, they are going to go through some rough waters when it comes to taking turns and interrupting others. These little people are a capsule full of a million ideas and a very short attention span, so waiting for their turn can reeeallly feel like an eternity! And they aren’t always going to pay attention when other people are speaking. Your child is not being rude, they are simply still developing their social skills.

Not paying attention

Short attention spans, once again! With so many new, and exciting things happening around them, it is not easy for preschoolers to stay focused and on task. They are going to get easily distracted. But don’t worry just yet! Like all developmental milestones, the ability to focus and concentrate for longer periods of time will slowly take form, and they are going to need your patience and guidance. It is very important to try to create a positive, fun, and engaging learning environment that fosters their love for learning and captures their attention. The best activities are the ones where they can get hands-on, active, and especially catered to their diverse (or never ending) needs and interests.

Acting impulsively

Little pirates love to act on a whim, and of course, not going to be thinking things through. Do you recall them coming to snatch things off your hand and running away? Yes, quite like a pirate jumping at the first opportunity to claim their new-found treasure! This is because they haven’t developed the ability to control their impulses and think things through (even I will have to admit sometimes I can’t control my impulse to binge eat chocolate!) These little people are still trying to learn to understand and control their emotions (and those emotions can be HUGE for them)

Teaching the importance of thinking before acting is not going to be an easy feat, and they will need a lot of love and patience. With time, they will improve their behaviour in the classroom and develop their decision-making skills.

Refusing to participate

Not all little people are out-going and hyper! Some preschoolers can actually be very shy and even refuse to join in group games. Believe it or not, even small kids can be afraid of being judged or not yet feel confident in themselves. And some preschoolers are just a quiet observer by nature. Just like in the adult world, some people love to be in the centre of attention and lead the way, whilst some others like to listen and follow, and that is perfectly okay! But what we can do to foster a more confident child is to be supportive and inclusive. Being exposed to activities that they love will encourage them to participate and explore.

Acting out

Do you remember those “cool kids” who found joy in TPing because it made everyone laugh? Well, preschoolers love to seek attention too! They may act out in class by being disruptive, throwing stuff around, or even using bad words. They also do this because they want to express their frustration or test boundaries. So why do they like to try us out like this? It’s because it is not easy for little ones to regulate their emotions, and they don’t know any skills that can help them with handling their own feelings (The smaller the child, the bigger the feelings!) Offer warm hugs and patience (sometimes it’s not easy, I know!).

Struggling with following directions

Have you ever tried to herd cats? It sounds so funny until it’s your little preschooler who you are trying to herd! Trying to get a preschooler to follow directions can be very difficult because like we mentioned earlier – these little ones are full of energy and ideas, and they just don’t understand why they need to listen to you. And sometimes it’s because they really just can’t focus on the task at hand, and being asked to do something else is just impossible for them. Keep your cool and continue with positive reinforcement, your little one will soon be following directions like a boss!

I would like us to see ourselves as the captain of a ship filled with young and eager pirates, ready to embark on a journey of learning, growth, love, and discovery. Yes, sometimes there are going to be really rough waters that come in the way, but try to remind yourself that these little people are still developing and learning how to navigate the stormy seas of life.

And whilst they are still by our side, the best gift we can give to them is guidance and support. By understanding why these little people are how they are, we can better help them steer towards happiness and empower them to become confident, and imaginative learners.

So, let’s cherish this journey and all its ups and downs, and guide our little pirates towards a brighter future filled with endless possibilities and adventures! We are all in this together!

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