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children, I suggest considering a new profession, maybe IT. Just remember, if some-
thing goes exactly the way you expect with young children, something is wrong. So
smile and enjoy the kids . . . and they will enjoy being with you.
Key Guidance Constructs
Along with guidance itself, four other integral constructs appear in several chap-
ters. They are Mistaken Behavior; Three Levels of Mistaken Behavior; Five Demo-
cratic Life Skills; and Liberation Teaching.
Mistaken Behavior. From birth to death, all humans experience conflicts,
expressed disagreements between individuals. Life is replete with conflict—it
is part of being alive. When people are fortunate or at their best, they resolve
their conflicts peaceably. In learning the skills of conflict management,
young children, who are just beginners, make mistakes in their judgments
and show mistaken behaviors.
Three Levels of Mistaken Behavior. For almost half a century, I have used
this construct to help explain why children show mistaken behaviors. The
levels correspond to degrees of mental health in children. The levels, in order
of decreasing mental health, are
Level one, experimentation mistaken behavior. A child who is open to
new experiences tries something; it doesn’t work, and a conflict occurs.
Emotions might be raw at the moment, but the child at level one reconciles
fairly quickly and moves on to other new experiences.
Level two, socially influenced mistaken behavior. Children may be
making progress with insecurities and stress, but they defer to significant
others as authority figures in their behavior. For reasons of perceived
safety, they go along to get along, as the saying goes. Children at level two
are easily influenced by others, which can lead to classroom conflicts.
Level three, strong-unmet-needs mistaken behavior. Children are
experiencing the strong motivation of unmet basic needs, and the resulting
stress affects their outlooks and reaction tendencies across time. The con-
flicts they are involved in tend to be extreme and repeated. These children
are at risk for falling into the stress-rejection cycle.
Five Democratic Life Skills. The five democratic life skills (DLS) represent
skills that people need to function in and contribute to a modern, complex,
democratic society. The first two skills indicate that the individual is working
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on the primary motivational source, for safety and security. This two-skill set
must be largely gained before the child can work effectively on the next three
skills, which pertain to the secondary motivation source, for psychological
growth. The five democratic life skills are as follows:
1. Finding acceptance as a worthy member of the group and as an
individual 2. Expressing strong emotions in nonhurting ways
3. Solving problems creatively—independently and in cooperation with
others 4. Accepting unique human qualities in others
5. Thinking intelligently and ethically
Children who have not yet gained DLS 1 and 2 are at risk for showing level
three mistaken behavior. As they make progress in gaining these basic
needs-related skills and are beginning to move to the next three, they are
more apt to show mistaken behavior at levels two and one.
Liberation Teaching. Liberation teaching means never giving up on any
child. It is the practice of guidance at its purest and best. With respect to
the democratic life skills, liberation teaching means providing the positive
leadership children need to gain DLS 1 and 2 and make progress in gaining
DLS 3, 4, and 5. With respect to the three levels of mistaken behavior, libera-
tion teaching means teaming with the child, family, and caregivers to make
strong-unmet-needs mistaken behavior unnecessary.
Discussion Questions and Key Concepts
At the end of each chapter, a small number of discussion questions provide the
opportunity to further study guidance concepts and practices. Most of the ques-
tions ask the reader to reflect about real-life experiences from the context of chap-
ter ideas. In discussing the questions with colleagues, privacy considerations are
important here. For me, such questions help make the content of each chapter
viable and real. It is my hope that the reader finds this to be true as well.
Key concepts are featured terms in each chapter; they provide a vocabulary that
helps to explain and understand the guidance approach. I rely on key concepts in
my writings to help readers engage with guidance concepts and practices and to
raise awareness of teaching practices that calm and guide rather than punish. A
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