Integrating SEL into the structures of an early childhood classroom: the Conscious Discipline approach

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Conscious Discipline, developed by Dr. Becky Bailey, founder of Loving Guidance in Florida, USA, is an early childhood program that integrates SEL into classroom management for pre-school and early elementary classrooms. It is a non-curricular approach, focusing on modifying learning structures and the classroom environment, and strengthening teacher social and emotional competence to promote positive behaviors in the children. Driven by a philosophy that prioritizes safety, connection, and peaceful problem-solving over external rewards and punishment, Conscious Discipline consists of a set of behavior management strategies that first focus on helping adults manage their own thoughts, feelings, and actions in stressful situations, who then teach these skills to students. There is a strong emphasis on emotion knowledge and emotional behavior regulation.

The program includes seven sections, each featuring a core Conscious Discipline skill: composure, encouragement, assertiveness, choices, positive intent, empathy, and consequences. Each skill is taught through rituals, classroom structures or routines designed to enhance connectedness, set behavioral expectations, and scaffold the building of social and emotional skills.

There is a strong component of adult skill building in this program. Intensive teacher training, self-study resources, annual conferences and institutes as well as ongoing personal coaching and support are available to teachers in addition to classroom resources that support student social and emotional development.

Conscious Discipline has been recognized by SAMHSA NREPP, and has been evaluated in multiple studies, with reported reductions in student aggression and conduct problems, and gains in teacher emotion regulation.

Conscious Discipline also offers an add-on curricula for students- the Feeling Buddies PreK-2 Curriculum.