Over the festive season, we have the helping hand of Santa and his elves who are always watching our children, making sure they are on best behaviour and make it to the infamous nice list in time for Christmas morning! But, what happens when reality hits and we return to the status quo in the new year? As humans we are very social creatures; children are learning to navigate the social intricacies of day-to-day life for the very first time. For this reason, they sometimes like to test the boundaries of behavioural expectations. For us adults this can sometimes become frustrating to the point where we think we have tried absolutely everything, but out children still display undesirable behaviour.
The first step of achieving positive outcomes when managing children’s behaviour is to provide an environment or atmosphere where children learn to respect themselves, other people and their surroundings. Children who present undesirable behaviour should not be labelled in a negative way, these labels are internalised and often can lower children’s self esteem to a point where they no longer see advantage in improving and managing their own behaviour.
Key Points to Consider:
- Boundaries and consistency are essential children need time to learn new skills.
- Children should always be told why their behaviour in unacceptable in a way they can understand and the reasons for any sanctions.
- Try to understand why the child is behaving in a particular way are they tired, hungry or bored .etc
- Adults should provide a good role model for behaviour and practice what they preach.
When difficult behaviour strikes, it is important to be consistent in how you deal with it. The first few incidents of dealing with difficult or unacceptable behaviour can be challenging, but stick with it! Children need time to learn new skills and ways of behaving.
A Consistent Approach
When addressing behaviour issues:
- Go over to child
- Get down to their level
- Explain why the behaviour is unacceptable
- Ask them to stop.
If unacceptable behaviour continues:
- Repeat the above steps
- Set a limit and consequence e.g. “if your behaviour continues to be unacceptable you will have to come and sit by me”
If a third approach is necessary:
- Tell the child “you need to come and sit by me because your behaviour is unacceptable”
- Sit the child alongside you.
- Explain to them why they are required to sit by you.
- Sit for a duration of 3 minutes.
- Try not to communicate with the child visually or verbally for this time.
- After 3 minutes explain why the child had to sit out in the same language you used before.
- Encourage the child to return to an activity that is acceptable to you but also follows their interest.
It is often best to support children in changing their behaviour before any incidents occur. By setting limits during activities which usually result in unacceptable behaviour we support children in self-managing their own actions and make positive choices.
Limit Setting Approach
Example: a child is throwing wooden blocks around the room – the adult responds positively by following ‘ACT’ strategies:
A – Acknowledging the feeling e.g. ‘You like throwing’ or for older children ‘I can see you are happy throwing the blocks’
C – communicating the limit e.g. ‘blocks for building’ or for older children ‘the blocks are for building’. Younger children may need the adult to show them how to play with the toy e.g. show them how to build a tower with the blocks rather than throwing them.
T -Targeting the alternatives e.g. ‘throw ball or scarf’ or for older children ‘you can throw the ball or the paper aeroplane’
The adult stays calm throughout and gives time for the child to respond to the choices e.g. give repeated chances for younger children; and two chances for older children by repeating the steps. If the child is older and doesn’t stop the unwanted behaviour say clearly ‘I can see you aren’t listening, and you have chosen to stop playing with the blocks’
Then calmly redirect to another activity, game, or toy.
This approach can be used in many other situations where a child needs support to make positive choices.