Effective behaviour management is key to creating a safe, happy, stimulating environment in which the children interact with their peers and with adults. The school age childcare environment is typically less formal than the school environment, and caters for children of different ages, abilities and interests, often within limited space, and with limited resources. Therefore, it is very important to invest time in developing a behaviour policy which meets the needs of the children and adults in the setting.
- Creating the Right Environment
- Points to remember when making rules
- Rewards come in many forms
- Dealing with negative behaviour
- Effective strategies the LEAST model
Creating an environment that encourages and supports positive behaviour is essential. Children need to experience consistency and predictability in the day-to-day running of the service. The creation of developmentally appropriate rules, rewards and consequences fosters and supports a healthy learning environment (Lyons et al, 2006). Staff and children need to have a shared understanding of behaviour expectations, and have ownership of the approaches used to support and modify behaviour. Behaviour expectations apply to adults and children. If it is not acceptable for children to shout at each other, neither is it acceptable for adults to shout at each other or at the children. Involving children in developing rules, rewards and consequences for behaviour, gives them a sense of ownership of the process and they are less likely to misbehave. Lyons et al (2006) found that children who have participated in drawing up rules and boundaries are more likely to remind their peers of the rules when broken. This practice also allows children to build relationships with staff as they experience them being consistent and fair.
Promoting Positive Behaviour through the Development of Rules, Rewards and Consequences Lyons et al. identify three specific attributes which must form the foundation of the development of rules, rewards and consequences. Firstly, rules must be clear. They must identify positive behaviours which are expected, e.g. we will show respect to each other (rather than we must not shout or push). Positive rewards and negative consequences must also be clear and understood. Secondly, it is very important to be consistent. This involves being consistent from day to day, and also, staff members being consistent in how they implement the behaviour policy.
Finally, it is very important to be caring in the process of implementing the rules. Remember, it is the behaviour that may be causing problems, and the child is capable of changing that behaviour! Staff can positively support the child by helping him/her to own his/her behaviour, supporting them to change it, and by acknowledging any efforts
the child makes to improve their behaviour. A minority of children exhibit serious behaviour difficulties which need
individual consideration and planning. Lyons et al. provide guidelines in the development of individual behaviour
plans. It is very likely that the child who is seriously misbehaving in the school age setting is also exhibiting similar
behaviour in the school, community or home environments. There may be a behaviour plan in place for this child and the school age setting could support the child by working collaboratively with the parents and teachers to support the child to modify his/her behaviour.
- Be clear, consistent and caring.
- Involve children in drawing up the rules.
- Limit the number of rules to 5 approx.
- Make sure the rules are age appropriate.
- Make sure rules have a positive focus.
- Have an agreed system in place to devise, review and evaluate rules.
- Make sure parents are consulted and informed.
- Rewards may come in the form of praise, both social and tangible.
- Praise is an example of a social reward. Praise may be given both directly to the child, and/or to the parent at collection time/or by phone/certificate. A tangible reward might include extra time at a favourite activity, a token system whereby the child earns a gift over time, e.g. a voucher for a trip to the cinema.
- Praise the child for a specific behaviour, e.g. thank you for putting the paints into the drawer after the art session (this works much better than ‘you are a good girl/boy’).
- Find occasions for praising children - these might include watching for instances when older children help younger children, tidy up, and speak politely.
- Be sincere in your praise - children will easily detect if you are insincere.
- Be careful about publicly praising older children - a quiet word of acknowledgement may be more effective and acceptable.
- If a formal rewards system is being put in place, make sure children are involved in drawing it up.
- Reward the child as close as possible to the behaviour which you are acknowledging.
- Make sure parents are consulted and informed.
Do not confuse the negative behaviour with the child. While the behaviour may not be acceptable the child always deserves the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Establish and agree a system of consequences for negative behaviour. The child needs a predictable environment, where they are aware of the consequences of misbehaviour.
Like rules and rewards, consequences need to be clear, consistent and caring.
Consequences could include time out, withdrawal of privileges, less time at favourite activities.
Once a child has received the consequence for his/her misbehaviour, welcome them back into the activity, expect that the misbehaviour will not reoccur, and acknowledge any efforts on the part of the child to alter previously negative behaviour patterns.
Consider speaking with the parents about behaviour difficulties which the child is displaying in the school age setting. He/she may be encountering similar difficulties in the home and school, and there may be a programme in place to enable the child to deal with their behaviour. In this case the school age setting can play a very important role in lending consistency to handling the child’s behaviour problems. Adapted from Lyons et al 2006
By drawing up a behaviour management policy, staff have an opportunity to create appropriate expectations, establish and maintain boundaries, ensure management techniques are consistent and fair, and establish a trusting relationship with parents and children. Parents will also have an opportunity to understand what is expected of their child and will be able to support staff to maintain positive strategies, providing consistency for the children. According to Lyons et al. there is a strong link between the nature of the environment and behaviour. It is possible to minimise the chances of misbehaviour by providing a stimulating, safe environment ( “learning banquet”) in which children grow, learn and relax. After all, if children are challenged, motivated, and occupied, there is a much greater chance of positive behaviour. Lyons et al. identify the ingredients for this ‘learning banquet’ as follows:
Consider the following guidelines when supporting positive behaviour:
1. Encourage respect between children and staff, between the staff themselves and between the children, while recognising, exploring and validating children’s ideas.
2. Respect the children’s interests and their choice to participate in activities and actively work to make participation easier.
3. Consider children’s individual needs as some children may need their own behaviour plans.
4. Deal with unacceptable/inappropriate behaviour in an agreed and consistent manner.
The reality of working with children is that they will all exhibit challenging behaviour at some stage, regardless of
their particular needs. Clear policies should be set from the early stages so that children are aware of how they are expected to behave. Take account of cultural differences, diverse needs, and family circumstances when discussing
behavioural policies with parents (TASC, 2005).
The LEAST model described below may be worth considering:
a) Leave it alone: staff must consider whether the behaviour is going to become troublesome. Perhaps it is best to leave it alone.
b) End the action indirectly: is it possible to distract the child by offering an alternative activity or redirecting his/her attention?
c) Attend more fully: how well do the staff team know the child? Do they know the child well enough to get to the heart of the problem? Is the child being bullied? Is the child bored, tired or in need of some relaxation? Getting to know the child will enable staff to decide how best to intervene when behaviour is inappropriate.
d) Spell out directions: always remember that the child has been complying with a range of rules all day within the school environment. Perhaps he has forgotten or confused the rules within the school age setting. A gentle reminder may be all that is required to redress inappropriate behaviour.
e) Track the behaviour: if there appears to be a recurring problem with a particular child, then it may be useful to keep systematic records of the child’s behaviour over a period of time. Consult and involve parents to ensure that any approach to dealing with behaviour is consistent with their wishes and to establish a consistent approach to behaviour management. (Adapted from Muijs and Reynolds, 2001).
In conclusion, the key to minimising difficult or challenging behaviour is to provide an age appropriate stimulating programme, involve children in drawing up the rules, rewards and consequences, and be clear, consistent and caring in the implementation of the rules, rewards and consequences. In this way you create a predictable, caring environment. Children are more likely to observe rules that they themselves have helped to develop and will remind their peers of appropriate rules during misbehaviour. Clear policies ensure that both children and adults are aware of expectations in relation to behaviour and go a long way towards establishing positive and constructive behaviour management strategies. Collaboration with parents ensures that parents and after-school staff have a shared understanding of behaviour expectations of the after-school setting.
Excerpt from "Voice and Choice" Edited Mary Maloney, Ann Higgins Sandra Ryan Click here to download PDF
Practitioners Guide to School Behaviour UK 2010 Here »
Behaviour and home school agreements UK 2010 Here »
Behaviour Management Strategies Tips Here »
Information for Parents on Behaviour UK 2010 Here »
The Irish National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) provides support and expertise to partner post primary schools on issues related to behaviour On this website you will find extensive information on how their three-level behavioural support model operates in schools; along with research, publications and resources; and find a wide variety other useful materials both national and international, well worth a visit.
Behaviour 4 Learning This website is developed by the Teacher Training Agency in the UK. It has some good articles and resources on the subject of behaviour, including an excellent glossary