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It's not unusual for children in Early Years settings to display challenging behaviour.

While most little ones, on most occasions, want to behave in a way that is reasonable and acceptable there are times when they lack the emotional, social or behavioural skills to cope with conflict or certain situations.

According to research behaviour - positive or negative - is simply a means of communication.

Therefore when children exhibit challenging behaviour it's the job of the Early Years practitioner to figure out what they are trying to communicate and help them find a better way.

This requires trial and error and patience, but there are ways to improve the situation and find techniques to support children who display challenging behaviour.

What's most important is that the childcare professional provides the necessary 'guidance' to help children manage their own behaviour, rather than looking to try and 'control' it.

Another key element is the environment and how it impacts on the children.

The classroom itself should not be too cluttered, too bright, too noisy, or too stimulating.

And the social and emotional environment must be nurturing and respectful of children, their families, and their culture. 

Strategies to manage difficult behaviour

When challenging behaviour is identified there are a number of popular and effective strategies that can be employed to help children self-regulate their behaviour.

Below are just some tried and tested suggestions, but there are many more.

Positive reinforcement

Praise good behaviour and ignore the negative. Obviously, this isn't applicable in all situations, but concentrating on positive behaviour will help a child focus on what is expected of them

Be consistent

Try one approach and stick with it. If it doesn't get results then try another.

One instruction at a time

Resist the urge to string a chain of commands together. One instruction at a time is more effective as too many requests can lead to confusion and frustration.

Time to respond

Give a child time to respond to instruction. Instead of repeating yourself, give a couple of minutes for the child to process the information and then follow the instruction

Visual timetables

These are great for a child who is struggling with routine or transition times. Show them what is going to happen throughout each day using easy to understand images.

Tune in

Observe the child and tune in to what they are really trying to tell you through their challenging behaviour

If you want to learn more about how to manage behaviour in an Early Years setting then our CPD short course Managing Behaviour, is the perfect learning tool.

The course explores the definitions of good behaviour and learners will gain an understanding of how broad a spectrum this definition might be and how it is dependent upon the age of the child, cultural situation and tolerance levels. Reasons for poor behaviour and strategies for improving behaviour are also covered as is evaluating the benefits of working with outside agencies when necessary.