How to manage unacceptable behaviour

Knowing how to deal with children’s behaviour is a real minefield and each situation requires a different approach. Here are our top tips on how to manage those moments.

Choose your battles wisely.
If a child’s behaviour brings immediate risk of harm to the child or to another child or adult, intervention is obligatory. Otherwise, it may be helpful to stop and think before you intervene and ask yourself why the child’s behaviour should be managed, and if so, how it should be managed.

If a child’s behaviour is undesirable or attention-seeking, but not affecting other children in a group, it may best be ignored for the moment.
Sometimes children have their own genuine fears and reasons for avoidance, which to adults might seem illogical, but which nevertheless deserve respect.

Distraction is sometimes a useful behaviour management strategy.
This can be useful if the child’s concentration has waned and he or she is beginning to show careless or destructive actions such as throwing toys or kicking them around.

When you need to remind a child about rules and expectations, use your body language, gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice to express your disappointment.
Lower yourself so you can make eye contact with the child and talk in calm and serious voice tone about why the behaviour is unacceptable. Keep your message short, simple, and clear.

Remind children about rules and briefly explain your reasons for issuing reprimands.
You may need to be flexible on occasions; however, avoid getting drawn into lengthy explanations or pointless arguments with children about the whys and the wherefores. Set your boundaries and expect the children to comply. 

For repeated misdemeanours, you may need to ensure that a young child has ‘thinking time’ away from other children.
This is sometimes called ‘time out’. Time out can be used as a consequence for a child’s negative behaviour, but it should be used minimally and kept short (a maximum of one minute for each year of the child’s age). Time out should not be implemented as a method to make a child suffer, but as a strategy for diffusing a challenging situation by giving those involved space away from each other and time to think.