Identifying children’s behaviour
Many children in early years settings display challenging behaviour and it can often feel like as a practitioner you have tried every technique in the book and followed all the advice given. However there is always something which can be done to improve the situation it is just trial and error and patience to find the correct techniques to support the individual. As always in the early years the place to start is with observations. You may choose various methods including positive behaviour analysis forms or time sampling.
Ensure that the method you choose identifies some key points:
- The time the behaviour was displayed
- The children that were around
- The environment the child was in
- What happened before, during and after the incident
- The trigger if there was one.
This may identify some key points which the child is struggling with and that is causing the challenging behaviour. For example you may find a pattern that a child is lashing out every time it is time to tidy up. You can then put strategies in place to help a child deal with this daily transition. Or you may discover that challenging behaviour is witnessed particularly when two children are together. This can then be monitored and addressed to find out what is causing the problem. Also importantly in early years settings is the need to keeping communication open and building partnerships with the parents. This can often be a difficult conversation to have with parents so be tactful and sensitive. Find out whether any of the same patterns of behaviour are seen at home by the parents and what strategies they are using to manage the child’s behaviour. Work closely together to find something that works and gives a child a set level of expectation and boundaries.
Your observations may have also highlighted some other areas of concern and you may need to get your settings SENCO involved here. The more observations you keep the better as these will need to be sent off to portage or IDS if a referral is necessary. If IDS do become involved they may be able to offer strategies or identify why the child is displaying challenging behaviour. If IDS do become involved again it is very important to keep the parents informed and work together to achieve the best outcomes for the child.
Great book about A quick guide to behaviour management in the Early Years
Strategies for managing challenging behaviour once it is identified
Once you have identified if there are any triggers to the behaviour you may choose to try some of these behaviour management techniques:
- Reward charts/cards – This is useful for all children in an early years setting. You may have a form of traffic light system where the child can visually see when they have received a warning or are displaying unacceptable behaviour. You may choose individual sticker/ hole punch cards. Positive reinforcement often works well.
- Praise – Praise the good and ignore the negative. This can not be applied to all situations so it is important that you identify the effectiveness of this strategy through observations. Concentrating on positive behaviour will allow a child to focus on what is expected rather then what is not.
- Be positive – Use positive behaviour management techniques and rules by asking for the behaviour you would like to see rather than identifying the behaviour you wouldn’t like to see. For example instead of ‘No running’ ask for ‘walking inside please’
- Use visual sand timers and five minute warnings – This is useful for children who are struggling with transition times. As well as giving the whole group a five minute warning, specifically inform the child with the challenging behaviour that they have five more minutes and place the sand timer where they can see it.
- Remove anything which can cause harm – If you have a child who lashes out, remove any other children from the situation and if they are likely to throw objects calmly remove these from the child’s reach
- Be consistent – Try one approach and stick with it
- Key person – Ensure the child has a key person who they have built a strong relationship with, this may enable the child to go to them to express themselves rather then displaying challenging behaviour
- Use visual timetables – Again another strategy for a child who is struggling with routine or transition times. Show them using visual images what is going to happen throughout the day and next.
- Stay calm – Sometimes when dealing with challenging behaviour the situation can become over whelming, it is okay to find the situation difficult and to ask for support from another member of staff.
- Create behaviour or routine cards – These can be carried around on a key ring in practitioner’s pockets. These can then be showed to a child wherever you are.
- Tune in – Continue observations and tune in to what the child is really trying to tell you through their challenging behaviour.
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