When I taught kindergarten I got labeled as the teacher who can work with the "tough kids". This sometimes meant I had the children with more known learning issues, sometimes behavior issues, and sometimes it meant the difficult parent. (now let me tell you I do not understand the last one because I'm not good with parents!)
The challenge with kindergarten is... when you are labeled this teacher you get the children who come in and we know they have issues... nice thick IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to read through before you even meet the child or long sob stories from moms on how "terrible" their child has been in pre-K or whatever... buttttt you also get the unknown... it is kindergarten!
Anyway... one thing I worked on very hard was explaining to the children that they choose to behave the way they behave. (insert upset parent of child with ADHD trying to tell me their child can't choose... ummm yes they can!) Ever action a child makes is a choice. You choose to listen, you choose to behave, you choose to throw that book on the floor.
At the same time I always explained that I cared about each child, and that each child was special to me. I always told them I many not like your choices but I do like you. Some children have never heard this before. Some children only get attention when they do things wrong. They do not know how to deal with positive praise.
With Blake I've already started talking about choices. Yes, I've blogged about giving him choices such as what clothes to wear or what to have for breakfast, but those aren't the choices I'm talking about. I'm talking about the choice to be gentle with Abby over hitting her. The choice to follow directions instead of ignoring Mommy. When Blake does something right Richard and I will often say "thank you for making a good choice" And when he is doing something against our wishes we ask "Is that a good choice?" At 18 months he is beginning to understand this already.
The big reason I started this in school was so often these children who had issues had been told you are bad when it's not the child who is bad, it is that the child is making a bad choice. I tell Blake he is a good boy (or being a big boy, or something on those lines) often... not all the time, but often. But, I never use the term bad boy with him. I would rather say that is a bad choice and then he realizes he made the decision to do the wrong thing... it doesn't make him bad, it makes him realize he shouldn't do that!
I can honestly tell you that doing this with some of the children in my classes helped them change their opinion of themselves. When children start looking at their actions as choices they realize they are in control of their behavior, they are in control over how people look at them, they choose to be the person they want to be!