“How can I manage my child’s unwanted behaviour?”
As parents and carers, we all know that managing unwanted behaviour can be difficult, even at the best of times.
The first thing to understand about unwanted behaviour is the root cause. Believe it or not, children can have bad days just like us adults. Maybe your child didn’t sleep very well or woke up with an ache or pain. It might even be that something at home or nursery has changed which they weren’t prepared for.
The main problem for our youngest children is their inability to communicate their feelings with you, which is why they end up getting upset or display unwanted behaviour. Unwanted behaviour can manifest itself in many ways such as hitting, biting or refusing to carry out instructions.
Our teams have an array of experience with these kinds of behaviours, so we’ve learnt a lot about how it can be managed and how to encourage more positive behaviour.
Here are our top tips which you may find helpful.
1. Manage your Expectations
It’s a good idea to have age-appropriate expectations for your child. For example, very young children can find it difficult to share. Sharing doesn’t come naturally to children, so being asked to give up a toy or activity is an enormous undertaking for them.
It’s also helpful to understand that some unwanted behaviours are perfectly normal. For example, it’s normal for a young child to display their emotions through a temper tantrum, as this can often be the only way they are able to express their emotions.
2. Use Simple Language and Instructions
Young children need to be given clear and simple instructions to follow. When children are given multiple instructions, they can easily become overwhelmed, confused or frustrated. Try using simple language and giving instructions one at a time. For example, “sit down, please”.
It can be very helpful for children not yet using verbal communication to reinforce your expected behaviour using picture prompts.
Children respond much better when they believe that they are doing well at something. This is why it’s important to reinforce your expected behaviour rather than focusing on the negative. For instance, you could say things like, “we use kind hands” or, “we are kind to our friends”.
3. Establish Routines
Routines can help children feel safe and secure, allowing them to understand activities or tasks that will happen next. Each of our nurseries follows a routine that children of all ages will be familiar with. It is really important that, whilst we appreciate your routine at home may differ, there is still structure for children when they are in the home environment.
Routine for all children can help reduce possible feelings of anxiety or stress as your child will know what to expect. You may find that sudden changes can trigger a spell of unwanted behaviour.
4. Use Positive Reinforcement
It’s good to use positive reinforcement wherever possible. It can make a big difference when you focus on rewarding or praising good behaviour, rather than focusing on stamping out unwanted behaviour.
Sometimes you just need to try and ignore or distract children when unwanted behaviour occurs. For older children, giving into unwanted behaviour sends the message that they can get your attention if they behave badly. Whereas, reinforcing positive behaviour helps children to understand your expectations and is also a great way to boost your child’s self-esteem and confidence.
5. Provide Consequences
It’s important that older children understand that there are consequences to unwanted behaviour. Any consequences you decide to implement should be realistic and match the nature of the unwanted behaviour. They should also be implemented consistently to have the desired effect.
When at nursery, we tend to avoid giving children ‘time out’. If their behaviour becomes unmanageable; however, you may want to consider removing your child away from the situation and redirecting them towards another activity. It’s crucial that you clearly explain to your child why their behaviour is not acceptable.
6. Be Consistent
Children will push the boundaries further and further if they realise that you will give in to their unwanted behaviour. It takes time and persistence to embed good behaviour in children, so be consistent with your management strategies. There will be moments when you want to throw in the towel, but it’s crucial that you keep going. After a while, things will eventually click into place.
Extra Tip: Try ‘Feeling’ Books
There are some great books out there that help young children to explore emotions and feelings. You might want to look at Anthony Browne’s “How Do You Feel?“.
It’s been written for under 5’s, so it’s a perfect first book to help teach young children about feelings.