Increasing Compliance among Pre-School Children



Prior to the commencement of the compulsory education, children between the ages of two and a half years to five years are taken to educational establishments known as preschool or nursery education. These institutions might be operated by the government or might be run by private entities. Preschool involves several grades such as day-care, preschool, and pre-kindergarten and kindergarten (Markham Ph.D., 2016). Preschool years are essential in the development of the child. At such a young age, children are still growing and developing mentally and as a result, providing them with the required knowledge while achieving developmental milestones could prove essential for their future lives. Besides, children get the opportunity to interact with their peers in a setting, which is structured and controlled by professionals. Despite the usefulness of attending preschools, there has been a developing and a rising trend of children compliance within the preschool setting. Instead of children achieving the set standards set in their curriculum, they exhibit entirely different behaviors. Despite this, the teachers of these children are trained to ensure good behavior and compliance in their children. Compliance is the situation whereby children follow the instructions in school. This study seeks to comprehensively discuss preschool children compliance and how it can be dealt with. 

Role of Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers are skilled in building the emotional and social skills of children. They stimulate their desire to learn, teach them concerning involvement in a group as well as self-expression in a social setting. Many preschool teachers believe that these are core essentialities in any preschool program for they are a recipe for creating and building a successful life. At this age, the academic-oriented programs are still developmentally premature (Wallace LCSW, 2017). Teachers are also trained to pinpoint where any child requires extra assistance. For instance, impulse control and following rules often require teacher attention. The teacher can cooperate with the parent, and as a result, the problem is remedied as early as possible. As preschoolers continue to absorb teachers’ approaches in addition to what they learned from home, they become teachers and influencers amongst themselves. If a child possesses delinquent behaviors, he or she might transmit it to other students. Therefore teachers have the role to ensure that they erase the associated noncompliance behaviors in children. 

It is normal for children to exhibit noncompliance towards instructions and especially in a school setting. They might show these behaviors at specific times and especially when they are upset, stressed, hungry as well as tired. They expose them through talking back, arguing, defying, disobeying teachers and parents. Amongst two and three years olds, it is typical to see children having oppositional behavior. Despite being normal, it is hazardous once it becomes pronounced for a long time. The presence of hostile and uncooperative behavior in children might have a significant adverse effect towards their academic, social and family life (Wallace LCSW, 2017). 

Children depicting noncompliance tend to show a pattern of defiant, hostile and uncooperative behavior directed towards the authority figures and in this case teachers. As a result, their day to day functions is really affected. However, the most prevalent type of non-compliance can be associated with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) (The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, 2017). This behavior can be either passive or active, and these children always find avenues to annoy others. Whenever they make mistakes, they blame it on others. If a teacher happens to question them, they might say that they are going against unreasonable rules. Besides, children depicting ODD tend to not violate other people rights. These children require treatments to develop and elevate their compliance levels. 

Determining and Treating Compliance

Non-compliance is always a concern for teachers. A study conducted by 3,305 preschool teachers, 78% of them rated that following directions was essential and fundamental skills in the preschool entry level. They rated “non-disruptive” higher. Besides, compliance was regarded as very essential during entrance and for preschool readiness. Despite this, noncompliance always remains prevalent among these children. 

Many researchers have come up with methods of measuring compliance among preschool children. One of these is the utilization of empirical approach to assess compliance by measuring completion and initiation of instructions. In this study, fifteen normal developing children between ages of 3 and five were assessed under instructional settings (The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, 2017). These children had not been referred for issues concerning compliance. These instructional settings included the amount of time the child was allowed to finish the task, whether the child had the opportunity to finalize the instruction, and if the instructions were indirect or direct. This research found out that sometimes parents completed instructions of the children. Besides, indirect and unclear instructions were given instead of direct and clear instructions, and therefore there was a need for a more controlled compliance assessment (Matthews Ph.D., 2015). 

A controlled and standardized compliance assessment encompasses scrutinizing various responses of children to same instructions in same settings. It also involves implementation and scoring criteria for both noncompliance and compliance (Markham Ph.D., 2016). This approach involves evaluation of different set of independent variables while comparing them from different studies and how researchers apply them. Standardized assessment should never be confused with large-scale non-referenced analysis. Standardized assessment is the same across all individuals under assessment. Teachers use this type of assessments to ascertain the levels of compliance of the child during the entry period. They then use this report to ensure that they guide the child towards achieving better compliance standards. 

Besides, various joint antecedent strategies pertaining increasing compliance amongst pre-schooling children have been evaluated. For instance, Markham Ph.D. (2016) unraveled that an antecedent package comprised of maintaining proximity, gesturing towards the materials, giving the name of the participant, stating behaviors that were required for instruction completion, and ascertaining how it was effective in ensuring an increased proper behaviors. Others involved behavior analysis in the midst of executing the instruction. For instance, asking queries relevant to the direction or task. Despite this, it was unclear which component played a role in increasing the appropriate behavior. Moreover, some proximate antecedent variables such as child proximity, directive statements, eye contact, praises and eye contact, and descriptive instructions happened to increase the compliance of the child (Matthews Ph.D., 2015). 

Consequence-based treatments can be utilized as a substitute to antecedent-based intervention. Giving attention to students such as praises tends to increase the compliance of the child. A study conducted on five children using “Thank you” praise showed that they improved their levels of compliance from 60% to 84%. Besides, Matthews Ph.D. (2015) found that three children having different problem behaviors could see their non-targeted problem lessened using tokens, edible gifts, and physical praise. Besides, when the negative reinforce for noncompliance was withdrawn, compliance levels elevated. 

Hell-Bent Misbehaving

Some children tend to have high levels of noncompliance. In their minds they have the notion that “you are not my boss” and as a result, every instruction given is met with resistance. The child might not express it but rather act out through crying. Besides, others will normally break the rules in the presence or the absence of the teacher (The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, 2017). They might be expressing internal upsets or miserable feelings. As a result, teachers have to notice the hidden message within the noncompliance behaviors. Others seek for attention and will continue misbehaving until their wishes are met. Punishing the child will not help the child in managing his/her emotions. On the other hand, the teacher will only fuel her misbehavior (Bernstein Ph.D, 2014). Besides, there are other ways of enhancing compliance of behavior among preschool children as discussed below.

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Ways of Enhancing Compliance

Setting a Good Example

Teachers are supposed to set good examples for their kids. They have to be role models so that children could associate themselves with such as a teacher. Teachers need not be rigid. They need to be flexible in their decisions and approach towards the children with delinquency. Once they find that the teacher can change his/her decisions, they can also change from being noncompliant to compliant (Bernstein Ph.D, 2014). 


Teachers and other instructors within preschool level need to show consistency in their disciplining activities. If a child has done something wrong today and he or she repeats it tomorrow, the teacher must still tell the child that he or she has committed an offense. If the teacher ignores the child due to repeated misbehaviors, the child will have no chance to learn which is good and which is bad. Besides, once a child commits an offense, he or she must know at the very moment and instant that something has not been done wrong (Bernstein Ph.D, 2014). Teachers need not hesitate in correcting any wring done. When the child finds himself or herself in a similar act the next time, they will know that it was wrong and therefore might not repeat it. 

Understanding What Motivates the Misbehavior

Children do not commit offenses because they do not know that it is wrong but sometimes they substitute their issues with doing wrong. If the teacher gives consequences without considering why the problematic behavior occurred then he might not help the child. They must make the consequences make sense to the children. Besides, consequences are not made to teach values but rather to set limits towards the behaviors of the children. 

Non-Emotional Punishment

When teachers are giving consequences to their children, they have to take emotions out of the equation. They should be calm, non-controlling and as well firm. Besides, they are not supposed to force children to act compliant but rather encourage them to act compliant. Besides, an emotionally driven discipline would mean that the child would fail to understand the reason for the punishment. It might also reduce control of the teacher over the child and promote further non-compliance or delinquency (Bernstein Ph.D, 2014). 


In conclusion, compliance is a behavior that requires assessment and improvement by teachers towards their children. Noncompliance is present in most pre-schooling children despite the fact that most of them show positive of compliance during entry level. In such a setting, teachers find themselves engulfed between many children who they did not have knowledge of their background behaviors. Some might spread their noncompliant behaviors to others while others might be forced to act noncompliant. In this realm, teachers have to look for methods of dealing with any noncompliant related case. They also have to ensure that they improve the compliance levels. It is therefore essential to look for best ways of promoting positive reactions. For instance, they can ask questions and give tasks under controlled environments. They should attempt every method possible to improve the compliance performance of the child. Showing them attention and giving them gifts and tokens could enhance their compliance behaviors. Compliance treatments should seek to ascertain both the behaviors as well as the reaction related to the controlled task. Teachers should also act as role models and provide meaningful consequences as well as show understanding of the behavior of the child.

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  1. Bernstein Ph.D, J. (2014, February 7). Six Smart Strategies for Disciplining Your Child | Psychology Today. 
  2. The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. (2017, March 9). In Preschool, Quality Counts the Most | Psychology Today. 
  3. Markham Ph.D., L. (2016, July 26). Handling Defiance: You’re Not the Boss of Me! | Psychology Today. 
  4. Matthews Ph.D., D. (2015, September 8). Ten Secrets for a Happy Start to Preschool or Kindergarten | Psychology Today.
  5. Wallace LCSW, M. (2017, August 27). The Value of Pre-school | Psychology Today. 
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