Children can display positive and good behaviour for much of the time. Praising this behaviour and commenting on it will help your child recognise when they are behaving well and how that is a positive thing. Children can however sometimes display challenging behaviour. Children do not always find it easy to manage their emotions and often behaviour is their way of trying to communicate these emotions. It is always worth trying to find out why they are behaving in certain ways - they could be cross, anxious, scared, frightened or worried about something - or they can pick up on the feelings of people and situations around them - but best not to try and work this out in the middle of a tantrum or meltdown. The best time to talk to children about their behaviour is when their behaviour has stopped and they are happy, calm and ready to engage with you - usually after they have calmed down and their challenging behaviour is over.
How can you help challenging behaviour to stop?:
- Remain calm at all times, no matter how frustrated or cross you may feel. If you need to, walk away for a few seconds (as long as your child is safe) and take a few deep breaths yourself. You need to model how to control emotions for your child.
- Be consistent. If you said 'no' or took something away do not back down and change your mind. Children will quickly realise they can act up to make you change your mind.
- Don't say anything you are not willing to go through with, for example saying if their behaviour continues they won't be able to go to a party later - only say that if you are willing to carry this through or your child will quickly realise your threats are empty and then they won't mean anything and their behaviour will jut continue.
- Don't over talk about things in the moment - quiet and space can often help.
- Be clear that you are not happy with your child's behaviour but that you still love them and are not unhappy with them - just their behaviour.
- Try distraction. This will often stop the behaviour and then you can talk things through when they are calm.
- Offer a cuddle or a time out space ( a cushion they can lie on/pummel) where they can be safe and calm down
- Offer calming strategies like blowing bubbles, counting to 10 or cuddling a favourite toy - sometimes you can just do these alongside your child without the need to say anything and they may just join in.
- Ignoring unwanted behaviours can often be a good strategy
If you know there is a situation where your child's behaviour may be more challenging, for example out in public or visiting family then be prepared. Talk to them before you do whatever it is and set out your expectations - and what will happen if they don't follow the instructions. Then make sure you are consistent and do this. It may also help if you are doing something where your child has to wait or will not have your full attention to take things for your child to do. A few small toys in a bag, some colouring things, a book can all keep your child busy and hopefully stop any unwanted behaviours.
Praise and rewards can be used - but only when a child has done what they are asked. Reward charts can be used effectively for situations when a child consistently does not want to do or refuses to do something. Start small by offering an immediate reward when they do something the first time and then over time lengthen the time between rewards. For example at first they may have to brush their teeth once to get a reward, then twice, then two days, then four days, then a week. Older children will be more capable of understanding time but younger ones need more instant rewards or they will lose interest. Remember to keep rewards simple, some I-Pad time, a story with a grown up, a visit to the park, one sweet. Rewards do not have to be expensive or object based, more often than not spending some quality time with their grown ups will be the best reward,
Remember all parents and carers will find their child's behaviour challenging at times . If you are finding your child's behaviour is becoming more difficult to handle or you feel you need support please talk to a friend, family member or to a member of the school staff. Do not try and keep coping alone, we are here to help.
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