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Traffic Lights – a child’s perspective


Wednesday 04 January 2017

‘I feel a bit sad today,’ said my five-year-old daughter when I collected her. ‘Did anything happen to make you feel sad?’ I asked. She had just started primary school and it was a few weeks into the term. She described a behaviour management strategy in place in her classroom, ‘It’s the traffic lights, when you are ‘good’ you stay on green, but if you are being a bit silly you go to orange - that’s your warning. If you still don’t listen you go to red. Red is really bad.’

Traffic light behaviour image - Traffic Lights – a child’s perspective

‘What happens when you go to red?’ I asked.

‘You have to sit on the step at break time. Today Sam was on red and she had to sit on the step. She’s on red a lot, and on the step all the time. How can Sam make friends if she’s always on the step? She can’t play or make friends, she needs friends to help her.’

Sometimes the greatest learning moments come from children’s own observations. All too often young children are dismissed when they struggle to regulate their behaviour. The emphasis is placed on the child to conform and adapt to the environment. However, as adults the responsibility is on us to tune in and adapt our spaces and interactions to support the diverse behavioural needs of all children. Particularly children that are struggling to adapt and transition into new learning spaces. The emphasis should be on understanding the reason or reasons for the challenging behaviour.

Traffic Lights – a child’s perspective

Sam sat on the step alone and watched all the other children play. While the children released their pent up energy from a morning of indoor concentration, Sam sat. While teachers supervised and engaged with other children, Sam sat. While children continued to build friendships, Sam sat. As she sat a little five-year-old watched her and felt sad. She wanted to help, but didn’t know how.


How can a child make friends if they are excluded from play with their peers? How does excluding a child impact on their self-esteem?


Further Reading:
Louise Porter: Young children’s behaviour: Guidance approaches for early childhood educators
2016, 4th edition, Allen and Unwin, Sydney

1 comments Comments

One Response

  1. Ann Keating O'Neill says:

    A system like this in a Primary school will do endless hard to any child’s self esteem, emotional well being, confidence, it is damaging in every way possible. 🙁

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