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Early Childhood Mental Health

Nebraska Early Childhood Pyramid Model for Supporting Social / Emotional Competence (EC-PBIS)

The NDE Offices of Early Childhood and Special Education are partnering with other agencies and organizations to bring the Pyramid Model to early childhood programs throughout the state. This program will enhance the social-emotional-behavioral health and well-being of all young children. It will assist them in reaching their full potential.

This is a long-term commitment involving early childhood leaders who are fully committed to program-wide adoption. Team Leaders will receive comprehensive professional development and ongoing coaching supports. Parents and families are engaged as valued partners who provide needed input.

Long-term commitment overview

The Pyramid Model is an evidence-based model for supporting social competence and preventing challenging behavior in young children. The needs of all children are addressed with challenging behaviors handled in a comprehensive and systematic process.

What is the Pyramid Model?

The pyramid framework includes the following sections, beginning at the base:
Yellow Tier – an effective workforce that promotes positive relationships with children, parents, and all involved.
Blue Tier – an environment that is nurturing and supportive
Green Tier – targeted strategies that provide needed social and emotional support
Red Tier – individualized support for children whose needs are not met in prior levels.

What do the categories of the Pyramid Model mean?

YellowYellow Tier / Bottom Level: The Nebraska Core Competencies for Early Childhood Professionals allows staff and administrators an opportunity to assess and identify skill levels that are needed for working effectively with young children. The document is a tool that can be used in planning and tracking professional development. In addition, the Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines are available to describe what children need to learn and be able to do and how adults can support that learning. Staff not only attend training but need to be part of a system that ensures implementation of what they have learned. An effective worker collaborates with co-workers, parents, and others for the good of the child. There is shared decision making about practices, procedures, and individual child planning.

Blue TriangleBlue Tier / 2nd from the Bottom Level: At this level we find positive, nurturing, and responsive relationships and a supportive environment. These relationships are a central component in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. With the advancement of brain research, research studies, and technology advancements we have learned that early experiences correlate to later successes and failures as adults. Providing positive emotional and social support to young children helps them learn the skills needed to function well with others. Early relationships as well as parenting and care giving behaviors impact peer relationships that children develop both in and out of educational settings. Positive early relationships also link to later social adjustments and social competence with peers.

The physical environment is another strategy to promote positive social and emotional development and competence. The classroom design promotes social interactions and participation in activities that provide developmental opportunities. Children are more comfortable when they have consistent, simple, positively stated rules to follow. These rules help them to demonstrate positive social and emotional behaviors and avoid using inappropriate behavior to meet their needs. These rules need to be taught and practiced as part of the daily routine

GreenGreen Tier / 3rd from the Bottom Level: targeted strategies that provide needed social and emotional support:

Specific strategies are identified to systematically support children in developing competence in emotional literacy, problem solving, impulse control, and building and maintaining friendships. These strategies (such as the use of various story books) are used intentionally to prevent problem behaviors and to modify or change them if they do occur.

RedRed Tier / Top Level: provides individualized support for children whose needs are not met in prior levels. All children exhibit challenging behavior at some time. Children with severe and persistent challenging behavior are a small percentage. These children benefit from an Intensive Individualized Intervention. Using a functional behavior assessment, a team writes a plan for a particular child, carries it out, and continually reviews and updates the plan.

When there is a repeated pattern of challenging behavior, there is the concern that it will interfere with a child’s optimal learning and ability to have positive interactions with others. The Center for the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning identifies the following as challenging behaviors when exhibited persistently:

  • Physical and verbal aggression
  • Noncompliance and defiance
  • Self-injury
  • Disruptive vocal and motor responses such as screaming
  • Destruction of property
  • Withdrawal

An infant may exhibit these behaviors:

  • Attachment difficulties
  • Sleeping and eating difficulties
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty in soothing

Serious behaviors do not resolve themselves without intentional, systematic intervention. Not addressing challenging behaviors in young children can increase the likelihood that their behavior will escalate as they grow older.

For more in-depth information, CSEFEL has provided an informative video:
Promoting Social and Emotional Competence

Why the Pyramid Model?

Children are growing and changing at a rapid pace. Using approaches that involve “best practices” teaches children how to get along and use skills to solve their own problems. The Pyramid Model uses three main stages to guide children. These are:

(1) Show & Tell (explain expectations to children)
(2) Practice makes Perfect (planned activities or teachable moments that implements the skill)
(3) You Got It! (children use the skill without prompting)

Along with the skills to implement these stages, various strategies and tools are also provided. To learn more in-depth procedures visit: Practical Strategies

For whom is the Pyramid Model intended?

The strategies of the Pyramid Model are for all early childhood care and education programs. The entire program does need to have a strong commitment to implementing the strategies program wide. They need to establish a team, create an implementation plan, schedule training, and develop strategies for including parents in the project.

Where do I find additional information?

The Center on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) has developed a myriad of resources for implementing early childhood positive behavior support strategies within the framework to the Pyramid Model in early childhood settings. There are training modules to use with staff and parents, literacy extensions, briefs, additional resources and materials available for purchase. Visit the Center on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning’s website for information.

In addition, the Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children (TACSEI) website is rich with resources and additional information. TACSEI takes the research that shows which practices improve the social and emotional outcomes for young children and creates resources to help decision-makers, caregivers, and service providers apply these best practices in the work they do every day. Most of these resources are available on their website to view, download, and use. The TACSEI website uses the Pyramid Model to provide a framework for addressing challenging behavior and promoting positive social and emotional competence.

What Nebraska Training Fits with the Pyramid Model?

Many established trainings fit into the Pyramid Model. These are available through the professional development system in Nebraska. Current trainers are encouraged to add these four slides to their training sessions. Providing a short overview is like the freshly brewed aroma of coffee – just a tease can create the craving for more!

The Nebraska Department of Education is hosting an intensive Implementation Academy for district or program-level teams who are interested in implementing the Pyramid Model (EC-PBIS) in preschool programs. This model provides the conceptual framework of evidence-based practices for promoting young children’s social-emotional competence and preventing and addressing challenging behavior. The Academy is the kick-off event for district/agency teams beginning a 2-3 year process of training and coaching teachers, administrators and staff in their preschool programs. Program-wide implementation of the Pyramid Model requires an extensive commitment to a systems-change effort and strong leadership from locally-developed leadership teams. The Academy will provide training and materials needed to support program-wide implementation and sustainability over time.

For more information regarding the Pyramid Model contact:

The Early Childhood Training Center at 402-557-6880

Teresa Berube at or 402-471-4319

Linda Bray at or 402-557-6892

Concise brochure overview.
Handout of this webpage.

Updated November 7, 2019 9:20am