Welcome to Fall Semester 2016!

Welcome back current students and welcome new students! Most classes at Dakota County Technical College begin on Monday, August 22nd. I’ve put together some of the information that you might need below:

  • New to this blog? Learn more HERE.
  • Have questions about parking on DCTC campus? Visit HERE.
  • Need to buy Textbooks? Visit the Bookstore HERE.
  • Not familiar with D2L Brightspace? Learn more HERE.
  • Need to contact us? Click HERE.
  • Have general questions about support services provided by the college? Click HERE.
  • Need to speak with someone about Financial Aid? Visit HERE.
  • Want to Log-in (D2L, Email, Grades) but not sure where to do so? Click HERE.
  • Not sure how to log in on campus? Learn more HERE.
  • Looking to contact a particular faculty member (aka Teacher)? Find him/her HERE.
  • Curious about what opportunities there are for you at DCTC? Learn more HERE.
  • Are you hope to transfer in credits from another college? Click HERE.
  • Brand new to college? View a First Day of Class checklist HERE and a preparation tips video HERE.

See you soon- we’re glad you’re here!

Learning More About D2L/Brightspace: Being a Successful Online Student



*Click on the links below to access video tutorials for D2L/Brightspace, the learning management system for your online courses*

Navigation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56VNYH49owc

Profile https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sH3UX4XX_E

Content https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpeZNV0rQg

Assignments https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhQHwEOMwHA

Grades https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3ewgHF_qtc

Notifications https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6TElEBF1j4

Quizzes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozpJz_MI_Z4

Discussions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK6TGYW5grY

Parking Information @ DCTC


DCTC Employees & Students will not be required to have a parking permit for the 2016-2017 school year.  DCTC Employees & Students will no longer need to register their vehicles. 
DCTC Employees & Students will be required to park in the lots located at either the East end of the building or the West end of the building.
The northwest parking lot in the front of the building is designated as the Visitor’s Parking Lot and is reserved for visitors to the campus.  No staff, faculty, or students are permitted to park in this lot.
DCTC reserves the right to ticket, and/or two any vehicle in violation of established parking regulations at the owner’s risk and expense. 
DCTC logo 2-C vert

How To VIDEO: Prepare for First Day of Class – College Tips

What Will You Do with Your Future?

-Your future is up to YOU-

APPLY TODAY! Admissions info.

Visit the Early Childhood & Youth Development website to learn more about the program.

Fall Course Schedule for Early Childhood & Youth Development.

Job Fair (Bloomington)


Bloomington Public Schools

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 

10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Educational Services Center

bloomington job fair


The spring months always seem to be jam-packed. Perhaps you missed out on my spring book study for that very reason. It was focused on Stacie Goffin’s book Professionalizing Early Childhood Education as a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era. “The conversations from this book are intended to shape the field’s future. Don’t sit back and listen; be part of this important conversation.” Here’s your second chance opportunity! Click here to read more.

Schools Without Playgrounds?

If you ask a child what their favorite part of the school day is, they’ll probably tell you recess. “Recess is the time of day set aside for elementary school students to take a break from their class work, engage in play with their peers, and take part in independent, unstructured activities,” Bossenmeyer, M. (2005). A trend is happening throughout the United States and in my opinion; it’s not a good one. Click here to read more.

Career Crossings


Parents In Community Action is opening a new center and is currently hiring for:


FULL-TIME Early Head Start Assistants

The EHS (Early Head Start) and Driver positions are FULL Time year-round. Driver’s may be paid overtime plus we have excellent benefits. College is paid up to a BA for Education Staff. We are always accepting qualified applicants for any positions listed on our website at www.picaheadstart.org.

sonnetSonnet Montessori is currently hiring for a  Toddler Teacher

Andrea Jeyaraja
Administrative Director
Sonnet Montessori
O: 952.226.6675 F: 952.855.8035


Fall 2016 Early Childhood Courses @ DCTC

Below are the courses that we’re offering fall semester (Aug-Dec)
options range from enrolling in our entire early childhood program down to just one class. 

*Introduction to Early Childhood Careers (On Campus & Online)
7 spaces remaining (On Campus)
3 spaces remaining (Online)
*Child Growth and Development (On Campus & Online)
spaces remaining (On Campus)
space remaining (Online)
*Health, Safety, and Nutrition (On Campus & Online)
spaces remaining (On Campus)
spaces remaining (Online)
*Observation and Assessment  (On Campus & Online)
1 space remaining (On Campus)
FULL (Online) Join Waitlist
*Curriculum Planning (On Campus & Online)
1 space remaining (On Campus)
FULL (Online) Join Waitlist
*Children with Differing Abilities (On Campus & Online)
spaces remaining (On Campus)
FULL (Online) Join Waitlist
*Creative Development Experiences (On Campus)
spaces remaining (On Campus)

Apply/register today to reserve your space in class!


Dawn Braa, dawn.braa@dctc.edu, 651.423.8315
Sharon Bergen, sharon.bergen@dctc.edu, 651.423.8398


3rd Annual Early Childhood/Child Life Career & Education Fair!

May 5, 2016    |   5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. DCTC    |   Dakota Room
              1300 145th Street E., Rosemount, MN 55068

ECYD Students and Alumni

The next step in your career begins here!ecyd1

Are you currently looking for a new role in the early childhood profession or are you simply interested in finding out more about the opportunities presented by area employers? Looking for a practicum site? Interested in a field experience? Ready to begin networking with other professionals in the early childhood field? Considering transferring after DCTC to continue your education? If you answered ‘yes’ or even ‘maybe’ to any of these questions, here is a great opportunity!

Alumni- We’d LOVE for you to come back and visit us. (We miss you!) You can network with professionals, mingle with current students, and see the changes we’ve made to our space. Hope to see you! Thank you for supporting our program (and the field) by attending.

Join us Thursday, May 5, from 5-7 p.m. for the 3rd Annual Early Childhood/Child Life Career & Education Fair at Dakota County Technical College in the Dakota Room. Dress professionally and bring copies of a current resume and be prepared to meet with many area employers and organizations looking for professionals like you. 

Representatives from the following organizations will be in attendance:

Bright Horizons Family Solutions ChildCare Aware of MN Especially for Children
CAP Agency Children's Hospital of Minnesota CDLC New Horizon Academy
Fraser Think Small prestige
Teachers on Call T.E.A.C.H Early Childhood© Minnesota UWRF
discovery club 196 school district northfield Ventures
reading math corps Knowledge Beginnings primrose
childrens country day
tutor time YMCA
MetropolitanStateUniversityLogo Goddard
 MnAEYC-MnSACA Gillette Children's
Pacer Center Southwest_Minnesota_State_University_logo
hcmc-web-logo-300x150 Lighthouse explorers logo PR
Concordia St PaulCC burnsville-eagan-savage-isd_291

For more information, contact:
Dawn Braa |  dawn.braa@dctc.edu  |  651.423.8315
Sharon Bergen |  sharon.bergen@dctc.edu  |  651.423.8398

MnSCU College Grant Program = More $ in Your Pocket!!

Our Early Childhood & Youth Development program is eligible for the MnSCU Two-Year Occupational Grant Pilot Program!

Program Purpose
The program provides financial assistance to students enrolled in qualifying career and technical programs at MnSCU two-year colleges so that students can complete the program within two years or less and find employment in a high-demand occupation. It was created by the 2015 Minnesota Legislature and will be implemented for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years as a pilot program.

Amount of Grant The grant will cover any remaining tuition and general fee charges after the student’s Federal Pell Grant and MN State Grant have been applied to the student’s account. Program-specific fees and equipment are not covered. The grant is available for up to 72 semester credits, including any required developmental courses taken after admission to the occupational program.

Wondering if YOU qualify and how to apply for the grant? Find all the details by clicking this link–> https://www.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?PageID=2163 

*Find out more about our Early Childhood & Youth Development program here!

How to apply to Dakota County Technical College - http://www.dctc.edu/admissions/apply-to-dctc/ 


Summer & Fall Online Child Life Course @ DCTC

medical-play-materials-e1412695748870Are you in need of one child life class, taught by a CCLS, that meets the 6 requirements put forth by the CLC? We offer such a class at Dakota County Technical College! I have included the steps for what you will need to do to register for our summer and fall, fully online child life course- ECYD 2900 Introduction to the Child Life Profession: History and Practice (3cr). This course meets the 6 required components required by the Child Life Council and is taught by a Certified Child Life Specialist.

  1. Provide documentation showing that you meet the pre-requisite (ECYD 1210 Child Growth & Development).  If not our course, please scan/email evidence, which would include: transcript (unofficial is fine), course description, syllabus, etc., for determination. Email evidence to Dawn Braa (dawn.braa@dctc.edu). You will be notified after determination has been made.
  1. In order to register for the class (AFTER APPROVAL) without being officially accepted into our college, you will need to submit the Undeclared Course Registration form (link below). You will need to create a user account (username and password) to complete the registration. http://www.dctc.edu/admissions/register-for-courses/register-undeclared/

SUMMER Course ID#- 000143, Subject/Course Number- ECYD2900, Section- 59, Credits- 3, Name of Course-Introduction to the Child Life Profession: History and Practice, Total Estimated Cost- $605, Course Dates 6/6/2016 – 7/29/2016*NOTE- This course is not available for currently enrolled DCTC Child Life Assistant students that have not yet graduated. 

FALL Course ID#- 000430, Subject/Course Number- ECYD2900, Section- 59, Credits- 3, Name of Course-Introduction to the Child Life Profession: History and Practice, Total Estimated Cost- $605, Course Dates 8/22/2016 – 12/16/2016*NOTE- This course is not available for currently enrolled DCTC Child Life Assistant students that have not yet graduated. THIS COURSE HAS BEEN CANCELLED. Next course to run Jan. 2017.

Once our Registration Office has received the paperwork, the request will be processed and a copy of the class schedule will be mailed out to you.  You will also be assessed a one-time $20.00 application fee. Tuition & fees must be paid at the time of registration to guarantee enrollment.

*For additional questions to registering for the class (after approval) or payment, please contact the Registrar registration@dctc.edu.  THANK YOU!


Dawn Braa

Career Crossings: Bright Horizons Interview Event

You might be interested in the upcoming interview event at Bright Horizons on March 23 in Rochester! 

This is an opportunity to see the center as well as interview on the spot! Spring Event BH onsite interviews


Child Life Positions in MN

The following Child Life Department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota positions have been posted:

1) CCLS in St. Paul Pre-op:  .8 FTE:  Monday: all day; Tuesday thru Thursday 0630-1230; and on Friday might include some Unit 6 coverage; also this position was requested to support cross-campus work for some direct service and projects.

2)  CCLS:  St. Paul Emergency Dept.  .75 FTE; six shifts every pay period

3)  CLA:  .5 FTE for (St. Paul) Sunday split inpatient and afternoon in the CL Zone; Wed. and Thurs: 2-8:30 PM

4)  CLA:   .5 FTE for Mpls.: Sunday and Monday inpatient; Wednesday: 4-8 PM in Sibling Playarea

5)  Music Therapist:  .8 FTE for St. Paul

Other positions:

-  .5 FTE:  11 AM- 3 PM for PICU Monday thru Friday

-  In Chaplaincy:  .8 FTE Bereavement Coordinator

Beyond The Pages Book Study Frequently Asked Questions (Goffin)

Here’s the information you’ve been waiting for! My next book study will be focused on Stacie Goffin’s book Professionalizing Early Childhood Education as a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era. I’m honored to announce that there is another fantastic lineup of early childhood experts to assist in leading the conversation around this book! In the coming weeks, those content experts will be announced. Did I mention that Redleaf Press is sponsoring a BOOK GIVEAWAY for this study?! Enter today for your chance to WIN the book study book for FREE :)

*Please note that this book study (and all future studies) will be hosted on my personal blog: www.enhancingyoungminds.com. Be sure to subscribe there to receive the weekly EYM newsletter!

Click the following link to learn about the book study! http://enhancingyoungminds.com/2015/12/beyond-the-pages-book-study-goffin-frequently-asked-questions/ 



Why YOU Should Consider Earning a College Degree

A new year often brings with it new resolutions. A recent time.com article said that “enjoy life to the fullest” was the number one 2016 resolution. Number 6 on the list is “pay off debt” which correlates with number 4 “save more, spend less.” One way to achieve those two goals is to obtain a job position that pays more. That might even make the resolution list for some people- get a better job. It can be easier said than done. So how does one go about getting a better job?

  1. Make a plan
  2. Get organized
  3. Establish a network
  4. Stay focused
  5. Use social media
  6. Apply, apply, apply!

Make a plan- It’s hard to meet a goal that hasn’t been set. Create a vision- what do you want/need? Allow yourself to be open-minded, but keep in mind your natural strengths and preferences. Part of your plan might be attending college to earn a degree. Why? Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, says that “the payoff from getting a college degree is huge and is actually increasing. For people wondering if a college degree is worth it: Not only is it worth it, but the premium is growing.” Did you know that, “individuals with higher levels of education earn more and are more likely than others to be employed?” It’s true. Sandy Baum, Jennifer Ma, and Kathleen Payea’s report (2013) says that, “the evidence is overwhelming that for most people, education beyond high school is a prerequisite for a secure lifestyle and significantly improves the probabilities of employment and a stable career with a positive earnings trajectory. It also provides tools that help people to live healthier and more satisfying lives, to participate actively in civil society, and to create opportunities for their children.” Be reflective and consider possible barriers that may get it your way. Have a plan of attack to work around those barriers.

Get organized- Use a filing system to store paperwork, employment contacts, ideas, etc. Use a planner or calendar to keep track of appointments, interviews, or any important event that may assist you in reaching your goal.

Establish a network- You may have heard the quote, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” There is some truth to this! Granted, you need to be skilled/educated as well, but establishing a network could benefit you. Study the career field of your desired position. Research top professionals in that field. Follow them on social media if possible. Request business cards at meetings or conferences. Make connections and build authentic relationships (online and in-person).

Stay focused- Remember your plan. Figure out a way to keep yourself motivated. Better jobs don’t usually just drop in your lap. Be proactive and patient. Use self-initiative to take action. Think ahead and take advantage of opportunity when it comes your way.

Use Social Media- LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and job search sites, etc. can be great tools to see what career opportunities exist, learn about the profession, and promote yourself as a professional. Use them!

Apply, apply, apply- You’ve got to put yourself out there. Especially for an entry-level position, it’s better to be open-minded than to be overly picky. Refine your application (unique, but professional). Your resume will probably face a lot of competition. A small percentage of applicants will be invited for an interview. It’s good to gain interview practice!

Baum, Sandy, Jennifer Ma, and Kathleen Payea. “Review: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society.” Education Pays. College Board. The College Board, 2013. Web. 1 Jan. 2016. <https://trends.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/education-pays-2013-full-report.pdf>.

*If you’d like to give yourself the gift of education in 2016, consider DCTC.

Choosing a college is an exciting first step on your path toward a rewarding career.  Naturally, we believe there is no better choice than the ECYD program at Dakota County Technical College.  Some of the things that set our program apart from others are:

  • Small class sizes;10049-04223lw
  • Convenient scheduling including full-time, part-time and online options;
  • A two-day per week structured pathway to ensure completion of our highest award in 2 years;
  • Transfer options to many four-year institutions;
  • Affordable tuition and fees; and
  • A hands-on approach to education that involves students in active learning of best practices.

girl_drawWe work closely with early childhood programs to understand what employers are looking for and to ensure that our students are well prepared for work in schools, child care centers, hospitals, Head Start, and a wide variety of other programs related to children and families.  We are confident that you will find our classes to be active learning experiences that challenge you and hone your skills for a rewarding career working with children.

Use the contact information below to begin a conversation with either of the program instructors.

ECYD Instructors

Dawn Prof Pic 2015

Sharon Prof Pic 2015

Dawn Braa                                                               Sharon Bergen
651.423.8315                                                           651.423.8398
dawn.braa@dctc.edu                                                sharon.bergen@dctc.edu

NOW ENROLLING FOR SPRING! Although our early childhood courses are filling, there’s still room for YOU! Options include enrolling in the Early Childhood & Youth Development or Child Life Assistant degree programs, taking a few courses, or enrolling in just one course. CLICK HERE for spring course information. (Note that some courses have pre-requisites)

We look forward to meeting you in person or online. *If you’ve already begun your educational journey, some of your previous courses may transfer in.

Admissions information: http://www.dctc.edu/admissions/
Transfer  information: http://www.dctc.edu/admissions/transfer-to-dctc/


Register Now…Spring Semester is Almost Here!

Monday, January 11th, spring semester begins at DCTC. 

Are YOU registered?

View the video below to learn more about our Early Childhood & Youth Development (ECYD) program.

To visit the DCTC ECYD website, click HERE.
For Admissions, click HERE.
Wondering what courses we offer? Click HERE to see the spring 2016 ECYD Course Schedule.

Early Childhood & Youth Development Outcomes
Early Childhood & Youth Development A.S. Degree, 63 credits
Early Childhood & Youth Development A.A.S. Degree, 65 credits
Child Life Assistant A.A.S. Degree, 60 credits
Early Childhood & Youth Development Diploma, 33 credits
Early Childhood & Youth Development Certificate, 18 credits
National CDA Training Program Certificate, 12 credits

We look forward to answering your questions and supporting your educational journey! Schedule an appointment to meet with us, give us a call, or send us an email today to reserve your space in Spring 2016 courses!

Dawn Braa                                                                                  Sharon Bergen
651.423.8315                                                                                  651.423.8398
dawn.braa@dctc.edu                                                                   sharon.bergen@dctc.edu

Announcing the Next Blog Book Study! Book Study Concluding Commentary (Week 15)

What If Book Study Marketing Pic
It’s time to end this book study and for the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT…the next BOOK STUDY CHOICE! Stacie Goffin will be providing final thoughts to facilitate our conversations. Just joining the book study? Get all the book study details HERE

**IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR THOSE WHO PARTICIPATED IN THIS STUDY: Please complete this short survey! http://goo.gl/forms/WBU0YPYdAT Thank you!


Stacie_library-webYou’ve spent the last several months reading and thinking about Rae Pica’s book, What If Everybody Understood Child Development?And now you’re about to read its concluding blog.

Rae’s book topic is an important one. Few early educators question the importance of child development knowledge as fundamental to meaningful and impactful interactions with young children. Being literal in the extreme, though, what if, in fact, everybody understood child development and its importance in furthering children’s early learning and development? If this were the case, what is now central to early childhood education’s (ECE) occupational expertise would be commonplace, minimizing the societal contribution of ECE’s specialized knowledge and undermining its stature as an occupation that makes a difference in children’s lives.

The sentences above are unlikely to materialize, but here’s why they still merit our consideration.

book imageWithout an arguably unique societal contribution, ECE cannot be formally identified as a professional field of practice. Without a defining purpose that distinguishes our knowledge and skills from commonly held information or from the contributions of other fields of practice, ECE cannot claim public recognition as a profession. When considered in this way, Rae’s book title offers the perfect segue to our next blog book study of Professionalizing Early Childhood Education As a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era.

Let’s return to the question of ECE’s unique contribution to children’s early learning and development. How would you answer these questions: What do you think distinguishes ECE’s knowledge base and practice from other child-serving professions interacting with the same age children? What commonalities bind us together as a field of practice, regardless of a program’s sector, policy mandate, or financing? Then consider this: What is the identifying name for our field of practice: early childhood education? Early care and education? Early education and care? Early learning and development? I know from experience that this list is not inclusive. Why do we lack a shared identifier for our field? Why do we continue to invent new terminology to describe who we are and what we do?

The next blog book study asks these and many other questions to probe our thinking about our identity as a field of practice and the future we want for ECE. Be forewarned, these questions are not easy to answer. They push us to critically consider our fragmented state and the divergences that exist between our aspirations for ECE as a field of practice and the field’s current status. They push us to question ECE’s current trajectory as a field of practice and what we can do about it.

A Defining Moment in Time

This is a defining moment for ECE. Few of us familiar with ECE are unaware of its struggle to fulfill its ambitions as a field of practice. Even though the ECE field is receiving increased recognition of its importance and is experiencing significant growth in policy support and funding, it continues to be characterized by a fragmented delivery system, reliance on an underdeveloped workforce, and uneven public respect. Despite the best of intentions, we remain a divided field of practice and lack what it takes to ensure that each and every child with whom we interact as early educators experiences an optimum early learning experience.

Further, this reality is unlikely to change unless the ECE field comes to terms with its lack of organization as a unified field of practice with defined expectations and accountabilities for a competent and responsible workforce.

Advancing ECE as a Professional Field of Practice

A budding movement is emerging in response to this crisis of fragmentation—a drive to organize ECE as a professional field of practice united by a shared overarching purpose, defining body of knowledge and practice, common professional identity, and accountability to one another, as well as to children and families.

Because of the nature of ECE’s work, few would question that it ought to be a profession and be recognized as such. Yet to qualify as a recognized profession, ECE will have to have attributes that define professional occupations—criteria such as a prescribed scope of work as a field of practice and formal preparation as a prerequisite to being licensed to practice.

This will require us to move beyond ECE’s history of willingly accepting people into the “profession” with varying education levels, credentials, and competencies, and ensuring that early educators are prepared to facilitate children’s learning and development prior to interacting with them and their families in formal early learning settings.

These are not trivial shifts in thinking. Advancing ECE as a recognized professional field of practice requires us to move beyond changes targeting incremental program improvements and instead engaging in the demanding but energizing work of transforming ECE as a field of practice.

The time has come for envisioning ECE as a recognized profession and determining how this will be achieved. The time has come for us to step forward, take charge of change, and confront the choices that becoming a professional field of practice will demand of us.

Many other fields of practice have confronted similar turning points: medicine, physical and occupational therapy, nursing, and architecture, to name a few. We can learn from their journeys. We can unify ECE as a field of practice, increase our individual and collective competence, and promote greater consistency in what children learn and are capable of doing across early learning settings.

Although professions vary in how they’re organized, they share the commonalities that are the hallmark of professional fields of practice. The work ahead, by definition, will be dynamic and emergent. This means it won’t be possible to devise an all-inclusive action blueprint in advance of starting ECE’s journey. Nor will a viable approach likely emerge in response to someone driving a predetermined change agenda. Rather, the work has to be driven by our shared vision for the field’s future, the choices we make regarding ECE’s defining purpose and character, and an openness to learning while we’re in the midst of change.

There is a starting place for the work, though — conversations with intent. These are conversations that engage us in personal and collective reflections that invite thinking together about creating an alternative future for ECE as a field of practice. Catalyzing these conversations is the focus of Professionalizing Early Childhood Education As a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era. As Robert Fritz underscores for us, “We have been trained to think of situations that are inadequate to our aspirations as problems. When we think of them as problems, you are taking action to have something go away: the problem. When you are creating, you are taking action to have something come into being: the creation.”[1]

By focusing on the future we want to create for ECE as a professional field of practice, we have the shared opportunity to help ECE realize its potential. Fulfilling this aspiration depends on each of us — individually and collectively — to become engaged with redirecting ECE’s trajectory. Your engagement in the next book blog study will begin your personal journey in this direction.

Stacie Goffin
Website: https://sites.google.com/site/goffinstrategygroup/about-us
Copyright: Goffin Strategy Group, LLC, 2015

[1] R. Fritz. (1989). Path of least resistance: Learning to become the creating force in your own life. New York: Fawcett Columbine, p. 11, italics in original.


This concludes the first blog book study. If you’re a MN participant seeking training hours, please visit this link to access to requirements.

*Please note that the next book study will be hosted on my new site http://enhancingyoungminds.com/ Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss anything. More details to come soon…including a book GIVEAWAY!

Bribes and Threats Work, But…Book Study Expert Commentary for Chapters 27 and 28 (Week 14)

What If Book Study Marketing PicThis week we are discussing Chapters 27 & 28. Deborah Hirschland will provide insight and lead our discussion this week about behavior strategies. Just joining us? Get all the book study details HERE.


Deborah HirschlandFour-year-old Kevin plops down in the block area of a Pre-K classroom where his classmate Sam has been constructing an elaborate castle. Kevin immediately grabs for the arched block that Sam is placing out front as an entryway, but Sam isn’t interested in handing it over. He calmly points out that there are others just like it nearby.

Kevin doesn’t seem to understand that Sam is trying to help out and doesn’t want to take no for an answer. With a look of intense frustration, he kicks over the entire castle. Then, after delivering a well-placed punch to Sam’s arm, he runs off.

Sam begins to wail. The classroom’s lead teacher Amalia heads Sam’s way to find out what happened. She looks visibly stressed: this is the third time that Kevin has caused another child great distress and it’s only twenty minutes into the morning.

Amalia and her co-teacher Libby are trying to stay patient and upbeat in the face of Kevin’s many difficulties. Experienced and skilled educators, they’ve taught kids with challenging behaviors before and know that even with good help, it can take time for such children to find their way. They remind themselves often that this is Kevin’s first experience in preschool and that his play and social skills are well behind those of his peers. They’re also starting to sense that Kevin has some difficulties processing language, “hard-wired” vulnerabilities that could well be contributing to the behaviors that are causing them such concern.

What to do?  Part of the problem for these teachers is that Kevin’s frustration is so quickly ignited, and that he hurts other children so frequently. As a result, it’s difficult for them to find opportunities to offer him the support he needs to develop the skills he lacks: skills in using language to make his needs known, in playing and problem-solving with other kids, and in managing his frustration without lashing out.  If only he’d stop kicking, hitting, and hurling toys – and stop running around the room when they try to lend a hand…

Amalia and Libby are wondering something. Should they consider giving Kevin time-outs to reduce his explosive and unsafe behaviors? They’re not sure; they’re strong advocates of their program’s overall no time-out policy, though they know that their director will work with them to make an exception to that policy if everyone decides it’s truly needed. But even with the possibility of time outs as a last ditch option, they’re hesitant – such an approach might leave Kevin feeling even more frustrated than he is already. Should they set up a sticker system instead? They’re not convinced about that idea either. With Kevin’s high level of impulsivity, such a system might not even make a dent in what’s going on.

Amalia and Libby are stumped. That’s why, as the program’s early childhood mental health consultant, I have been called into the classroom to take a look. It’s also why, standing in an unobtrusive spot from which I can observe Kevin, I see firsthand the events just described. To figure out how to help this boy begin to thrive, and to provide the other children in his classroom with the safe and calm classroom environment they deserve, Amalia, Libby and I have our work cut out for us.


Nicole, a single mother, is worried about her daughter Maya. Nicole believes that the experience of a trust-filled attachment should always lie at the heart of parenting – she has read some books she really liked about “attachment parenting” – and consistently lets five-year-old Maya know that she’s interested in hearing about how she’s feeling when she’s upset. Nicole does her best to help her daughter work through what’s bothering her, and sees the two of them as beautifully connected.  Nicole values that sense of connection because when she was young, she didn’t get much of what she needed emotionally from either of her parents. As a result, she swore that when she had kids, they’d have her full attention and support when they were having a hard time.

There’s a problem though. Maya is continuing to get very upset at home many times a day, and often over seemingly small things. At those times she cries hard, yells loudly, and often ends up kicking and hitting her mom. Nicole always tells Maya that hurting others isn’t okay. And after Maya sorts her way through the problem at hand, she quickly returns to her sunny self once again. Furthermore, Nicole has consistently heard from Maya’s teachers that her daughter rarely falls apart in school – there she’s experienced as a calm and relatively flexible classroom member. Kids enjoy her company and her teachers do too.

Nicole is delighted to know that out in the world Maya is doing so well. But things don’t seem to be improving at home and she’s starting to feel that her daughter is stuck in a way that isn’t good for either of them. Now Nicole is seeking some guidance from me about what to do.  Should she be firmer with Maya? She’s not keen on the idea of time-out, she declares without my asking – she has troubling memories of being sent to her room frequently as a child and doesn’t want to do the same to Maya. She wonders aloud about some other options. Should she institute a reward system to help Maya learn to stay calmer in the face of frustration?  Should she start taking away privileges or much-desired activities as a way of encouraging Maya to behave differently?


Kevin and Maya’s stories are just two of many that take place in young children’s families and classrooms across the country every day. Sometimes the “bumps” kids experience at home or in school are big like Kevin’s. Sometimes they’re even smaller than Maya’s. But whatever the specifics, all children need the adults who care for them to help them in becoming engaged learners, compassionate friends, capable problem-solvers, and responsible and caring family members. As Kevin’s teachers and Maya’s mother know well, however, it can be hard to figure out just how to provide the help kids need to achieve these important goals.

I’ll return to Kevin and Maya later. For now it’s worth noting that their stories raise some of the same questions that Rae Pica addresses in chapters 27 and 28 of her wonderful book What If Everybody Understood Child Development.  Are rewards and punishments ever a useful part of helping kids learn to manage their feelings and behaviors in the midst of their busy families and classrooms? Does their use – or overuse – lead to children relying on outside motivators rather than coming to feel confident and in control from a deep and enduring place within themselves?  How about the kind of “if-then” statements Maya’s mother is considering using (“if you do this, you won’t be able to do that”)?  Is it ever a good idea – not just in the short term but in regard to children’s development over time – to use natural consequences to help kids learn to balance their needs with the needs of others with whom they live, play, and learn?

How about time-out? Should it ever be an element of what we do as educators or parents to help kids find successful ways to manage their impulses when they’re upset or angry?  Should it ever be a part of our “toolbox” as we help children learn to do what adults need them to even when they don’t feel like it?  Should it be one of many tools we turn to, or should we ban it as a tool altogether? And if we do “give time-out a time-out,” what might we replace it with when we feel like we’ve already tried everything we can think of to support a child in developing new skills, to help him as he works through how he’s feeling, and to assist him as he learns alternatives to behaving in ways that just won’t fly in our homes and schools? Finally, as in Kevin’s case, what should we do when a child is being unsafe, over and over again?  Is time-out a useful strategy then?

These are hugely important questions for all of us in the field, and Rae has brought them to the fore simply and eloquently in the chapters just noted. They’re not always easy questions to answer. In fact, I’ve wrestled with them repeatedly over the course of my career as a social worker who spends much of her time in early childhood settings, working with children who are struggling in one way or another, partnering with teachers who are concerned about those same youngsters, and helping parents support their kids more successfully at home. These questions have also made their way into the books I’ve written about helping some of our most worrisome children begin to thrive at home and in school. (Kevin, as is probably clear, fits in that category.)

I’ve now spent over thirty years in the early childhood field. During that time we have swung this way and that on a lot of issues – the use of time-out being just one. We debate what’s best for kids. We nix one idea and try another. The pendulum about what we think of as “best practice” swings back and forth.  And whenever there is new thinking that emerges from the worlds of research, theory-building, or practice, we consider what it can tell us about how to support and nurture the kids we care for.

The areas we consider in this regard range widely. We don’t just have information about how relying on rewards and punishments can work in the short run but hold back children’s progress in the long run. We also know quite a bit more than we used to about how children’s temperaments and hard-wiring affect their ways of being at home and in school. We have learned a lot about the impact of stress on kids’ ability to cope well too. And we’ve come to understand just how much troubling or traumatic experiences can impact children’s development, readiness to learn, and emotional well-being. And this short list is just a start.

The nuances in how we now think about children play out in what we do. Our growing understanding of children’s sensory issues, for example, has led some educators to go from insisting that young kids should all sit “criss-cross applesauce” during group time to giving kids four different ways to sit and telling them they can go from one to another when they get restless. What those educators find is that just a little “tweak” like this one, based on some relatively new knowledge about differences in development, can lead to a great reduction in the “wiggles” as a class of kids engages in group-based activities and learning. Endless reminders are reduced as well and – in classrooms that use them – time-outs may no longer seem so vital to the success of circle time.

There are other examples too. Realizing how many twenty-first century children are coming to their classrooms highly stressed and notably distracted, some teachers have started using a mix of yoga and breathing techniques to help kids relax more and focus better. And based on new understandings of how the brain works when an individual is emotionally overloaded – and on the importance of maintaining connection with kids who are easily frustrated and/or overwhelmed – educators sometimes offer children specific things to do when they’re upset rather than always sending them off to a “calm down” corner to figure out how to pull themselves together without support. (See Becky Bailey’s Creating the School Family for more on one version of this kind of approach.) We use social stories to help kids master the difficult issues in their lives and give them visuals about how to engage in problem-solving too. (See the website of the Center for the Social Emotional Foundations of Early Learning or CSEFEL, for specifics.)

In short, we’ve learned a lot and we keep trying to get it right. And as I now take all of this complexity and return to questions about rewards, punishments, and time-outs, there are a few aspects to what I’m going to suggest in response to chapters 27 and 28 of What if Everyone Knew About Child Development.

On the one hand, as Rae points out so clearly, we want to keep in mind what we’re aiming for – in this case, kids who are engaged, connected, and compassionate, and who learn how to control their impulses and manage their feelings from a place of inner strength and well-being. We want to avoid what we’re worried about too, i.e. fostering kids who “behave appropriately” in the moment in order to gain rewards or praise (or avoid punishment or isolation) but who don’t develop the inner resources that will serve as their guides and anchors over time.

On the other hand, I believe strongly that we should guard against getting too dogmatic about absolutes along the way. Especially since absolutes – never do this, always do that – tend not to take into account how children differ one from the next: their constitutional natures are different, their families and cultures of origin are different, and their earliest experiences in life are different too. If kids are all different, should we have blanket rules about what we do and don’t do to help them thrive? And yet… aren’t there some basic assumptions and rules that we can rely on even in the midst of all of this complexity: things we should never think or do or always think and do? More questions without easy answers.

As a way of holding all these important points and questions in mind, I like the idea of exploring our teaching practice in ways that are not just child-friendly (based on what we know about how all children learn and grow) but also child-specific (taking into account children’s unique histories and ways of being). What does this balancing act involve? In part, it requires acknowledging some basic principles: That we want all kids to feel cherished and supported. That we believe all kids benefit from knowing that their needs are valued and their feelings are understood. That we believe, at the same time, that all kids need help learning to live in a world in which those feelings and needs have to coexist with the feelings and needs of others – that sometimes they’ll have to wait, that often they’ll need to share, and that living in groups means the necessity for flexibility, compromise, and problem-solving.

In this same arena of child-friendly universals, there are other principles as well. Most of us would probably agree that it helps all kids to understand, over time, that some kinds of behavior are hurtful and that being a responsible member of a family or classroom community means that both kids and adults have to learn to manage their feelings and to control their impulses. Most of us would agree, too, that we’d like all kids to feel that we’ll stick with them lovingly as we help them develop the skills they’ll need to be empowered yet compassionate and assertive yet flexible. We want all kids to know that mistakes are part of learning, and that we don’t expect them to be perfect. We just want them to keep trying, and want them to understand that grown-ups make lots of mistakes and have lots to learn too.

What about the child specific end of things? Maybe we need to acknowledge that for some kids, time-outs will feel too shame-filled to work well but that for others, the use of time-outs as one option of many – or as part of a safety plan that has time-outs as a bottom line – may be helpful. Maybe we can entertain the idea that “if-then” consequences are part of many cultures and can be a really useful way of helping kids learn that their behavior has consequences – and that such consequences for some kids used sometimes – may actually help them internalize their learning so that eventually their motivation to control their impulses and manage their feelings will stem “from the inside not the outside.”

Maybe we can remind ourselves that pleasure and interest in a child’s presence and efforts is often far more powerful then praise for their accomplishments but that praise, in reasonable doses, can have its place too. And perhaps we can keep in mind that kids really do need to feel that when they’re not controlling themselves in a safe or caring way, adults will support them in developing the skills of self-control they lack but will also stop them from hurting others or destroying things. Maybe we’ll consider the idea that for some kids used sometimes, “stop messages” that involve a removal – to a time-out pillow, to a bedroom to play quietly, or to a quiet corner to calm down and reflect – may be an extremely useful tool. We might even ask ourselves whether for some kids for short periods all the time a very steady time-out plan may be just the thing to begin turning things for the better. For some kids, never.  For some kids, sometimes. For some kids, all the time for a short time.

The same goes for rewards. Without a doubt, an over-reliance on rewards has dire consequences for kids over time, consequences that both Rae and Alfie Kohn write about with great wisdom. That said, when a child is having trouble managing his feelings and is engaging in a particular behavior that’s problematic and worrisome – and when, in addition, we’ve tried a number of approaches that haven’t been successful – it can sometimes be useful to develop a short term reward system to “jump-start” change.

I once was helping a preschool program with a four-year-old who was hitting other kids frequently when he was angry. He had a lot to be angry about – his life at home was terribly difficult. But things in his classroom had gotten to the point where his classmates were giving him a wide berth, and the steady emotional support and proactive coaching his loving teachers were providing weren’t working to help him find less hurtful ways to manage his feelings.

A week-long and specifically targeted rewards system helped enormously. It temporarily seemed to trump the intensity of his anger with the motivation to get the rewards he was being offered. And preschoolers being the forgiving sorts that they are meant that within a week he was welcomed back into the classroom’s circle of play. That experience of being welcomed by his peers quickly became a motivator in its own right, along with his teachers’ and parents’ deep pleasure in his progress. But it’s worth noting that it was a reward system, used only to help with one behavior and only for a week, which allowed a wonderful shift to begin taking place. For some kids, never. For some kids, sometimes. For some kids all the time for a short time.

None of what I’m saying here contradicts what Rae is encouraging us to consider: She’s asking us to question ourselves about the practices we use and sometimes overuse. She’s encouraging us to think carefully about why we do what we do and how we do it. And perhaps most importantly, she’s pushing us to consider what impact our approaches actually have on kids – versus what impact we believe they will have.

So what I’m doing here – or so I hope – is to try to add to the discussion, and to emphasize that there’s a lot of nuance in this complex process of considering what’s good for kids. Our best practice pendulum swings back and forth for a reason. Can we honor both the wisdom and the limits inherent in each side it reaches? Can we keep our universal principles in mind while adapting to individual children’s needs? Can we keep flexibility in and rigid rules out?

I think so. The problem is that once we commit ourselves to being flexible, things get tricky. Because if we entertain the idea of employing a particular strategy from time to time, knowing that it can have significant downsides, we open the door to that strategy’s overuse and misuse. Yet we don’t want to get too boxed in by a particular point of view if being helpful to different kinds of children means having a lot of tools in our toolbox.


All of this brings me back to Kevin and Maya. A flexible approach was undeniably helpful for both kids. As always, connectedness and care lay at the heart of what these two children needed in order to thrive, and an emphasis on skill development over behavior management did too. (See Jenna Bilmes’ wonderful book Beyond Behavior Management for more on this important distinction.) That said, in Kevin’s situation, it helped enormously to implement a safety plan – one that included a version of time-outs. For Maya, some if-then consequences at home helped things move forward significantly. There were other changes in what Kevin’s teachers and Maya’s mother did to support these two kids as well. That makes sense:  helping kids grow and thrive is always a multi-faceted endeavor.

So what were the changes made in responding to these two children? How did the judicious use of time-outs and if-then consequences sit alongside the many other aspects of how adults interacted with them in order to promote emotional well-being and developmental mastery?

In Kevin’s case, the teachers and I made a visual chart picturing the four behaviors that were most problematic for him and his classmates: hitting, kicking, throwing toys, and knocking over furniture. The chart had a photo at the top with Kevin smiling and a header that said “I have safe hands and feet!” Below that, there was a stop sign next to each picture of the behaviors we were targeting.

Once the chart was introduced and we were sure Kevin understood what it meant (an important piece of the puzzle since he appeared to have some challenges in language processing), Kevin’s teachers responded to each incidence of the four unsafe behaviors in the same way – by taking Kevin’s hand and removing him quickly from wherever he was. The plan was to give him a brief and firm reminder (“We use safe hands Kevin!”) followed by a short period in which his teacher would continue to hold his hand without talking further about what had just happened. If Kevin responded to such a removal with hitting or kicking either teacher, they brought him to a newly cleared out and pillow-filled “safe space” where one of them stayed with him –  though not so close that they he could hurt them – until he calmed down.

The safety plan didn’t end there however. After Kevin regained composure during some hand-holding or in the safe space, the teacher involved would warmly invite him back into the classroom’s activities. Then she would sit with him to support him as he tried playing or interacting with his classmates. Was this a time-out plan? Yes, in part it was. But it had some of the quality that the “Responsive Classroom Approach” emphasizes: Kevin was removed not to punish him but as one way to help him start learning the skills of self-control and self-soothing.

In addition,  it’s important to note that coupled with Kevin’s safety plan was a huge emphasis on warm connection and “scaffolding for skill” – the latter involving many moments when teachers would sit with Kevin and help him make his needs known using language rather than frustrated gestures, and join him in learning to play and interact with others successfully.  In fact, the reasoning behind the time-out plan was to reduce unsafe behavior so that teachers could give Kevin the help he needed – not to be the “be all and end all” as an approach.  

And what about Maya?  What “tweaking” was needed in patterns at home in order to help Maya cope differently? And what was the role of a more flexible approach to parenting in helping this girl make the strides her mother Nicole yearned to see?

Nicole was an eager partner as we worked to figure out what would help Maya manage herself differently through periods of frustration – not just helping Maya find things to do other than kicking and hitting, but helping her learn how to have milder reactions to small problems in the first place. Eventually, although connectedness stayed at the heart of Nicole’s way of being a mom, she worked on finding a more convincing “voice of authority” that she could use from time to time. And she added in some mild consequences to back up the expectations she wanted to set with more effectiveness.

Nicole let Maya know that hitting and kicking had to stop and worked to convey that idea forcefully without being harsh. She made it clear that she fully believed Maya could learn other ways to be mad. She told Maya that if she did hit or kick, she would need to leave her mother’s side for a short while.  In short: if you do this, then that will happen. And it did.

Nicole also started to “cap” some of the feelings-filled discussions about Maya’s responses to seemingly small stresses. She realized that in her effort to stay connected to her daughter, she’d lost her sense of when to spend a lot of time on something and when to help Nicole roll with the punches. After a while, for example, the fact that they’d run out of the cereal Maya loved and that she’d have to have something else for breakfast led to a far shorter back-and-forth than it would have previously. Then Nicole would gently but firmly set out her expectation that Maya figure out how to handle her disappointment without further discussion. And so on. Within weeks, Nicole felt that Maya was handling herself with a lot less fuss and a lot more flexibility at home. She was especially delighted that kicking and hitting were becoming rare events. Nicole and Maya were on their way to a much easier yet equally loving life together at home.


Kevin ended his Pre-K year far readier for kindergarten than his teachers and parents had imagined he’d be at the point in October when Sam’s castle was destroyed, his feelings were hurt, and his arm was aching from Kevin’s well-placed punch. Maya made a lot of progress too, in a way that made a big difference to the quality of her and her mother’s time at home. An approach that was both child-friendly and child-specific made all the difference in both cases. Kevin’s teachers needed to bend in a direction that wasn’t their first inclination but which turned out to be very useful. Maya’s mother needed to bend a bit as well. Learning to honor our universal beliefs and yet consider what a particular child may need isn’t always easy – especially when the ideas we’re considering go against the direction in which our field’s pendulum is currently swinging. But it’s worth doing. For some kids never. For some kids sometimes. For some kids all the time for a short time. 



  • Bailey, Becky (2011) Creating the School Family: Bully-Proofing Classrooms through Emotional Intelligence. Loving Guidance, Inc.
  • Bilmes, Jenna (2012) Beyond Behavior Management: The Six Life Skills Children Need.  Redleaf Press
  • Greene, Ross (2008) Lost at School:  Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and how We Can Help Them.  Scribner Books
  • Hawn Foundation (2011) The MindUP Curriculum: Brain-Focused Strategies for Learning and Living. Scholastic Teaching Resources
  • Hirschland, Deborah (2015) When Young Children Need Help:  Understanding and Addressing Emotional, Behavioral, and Developmental Challenges. Redleaf Press
  • Kohn, Alfie (1999) Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes. Mariner Books
  • Minahan, Jessica and Rappaport, Nancy (2013) The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students. Harvard Education Press
  • Siegel, Daniel and Payne Brison, Tina (2011) The Whole Brain Child: Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. Delacorte Press
  • Sniel, Elaine. (2013) Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents). Shambhala


Deborah Hirschland
Website: http://www.deborahhirschland.com/ 


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