Managing challenging behaviour in an early years setting – Help & Support

If you work within an early years setting you will have, no doubt, come across children who display challenging behaviour. This can, at times, be a difficult thing to manage but there are plenty of strategies and methods you can use which will help.

The simplest place to start is to ensure you have a clear and concise policy you can follow. This will just help to re-affirm your strategy and understand what you should be doing and when to support the children.

Encourage positive behaviour

Promoting positive behaviour within the setting and with all children will help to teach the children what is acceptable and help them to understand that, when they demonstrate positive behaviour there is a positive outcome. Using praise, positive language, positive tone of voice and language all really help.

Understand the cause

Often children who demonstrate unacceptable behaviour do so due to an aspect of their environment. They could be stressed or anxious, unhappy, even bored. Always consider WHY they are behaving a certain way. This is the best method to help support the child through this behaviour and showing them an alternative way of behaving which has a positive impact. Often very young children might behave a certain way due to ‘boundary testing’ whilst they try to understand what is acceptable. This is where consistency and support works well. Always bear in mind there could be other potential causes to behaviour including potential food intolerances than can impact children as well as allergies.

Use language and give the children choices

Talking and explaining to the children is by far the most effective method for getting through to them. Offer choices instead of instruction, explain why something is unacceptable, reward positive choices and encourage them to make the right decisions.

What can’t you do?

The Children Act 1989, Children Act 2004, Every Child Matters, the Child Care Act 2006, the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage and Practice Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage and the UN Convention for the Rights of Children prohibit the following:

·        Smacking and hitting

·        The use of any type of physical force

·        The threat of physical force as a deterrent

·        Shouting at a child

·        Bullying children as a form of discipline

·        Humiliating children as a form of discipline

·        Direct and hurtful criticism

·        Unnecessary criticism

·        Insulting a child

·        Cruelty to children

·        Withholding food/milk/drinks or forcing children to ingest anything they don’t want to.

·        Leaving a child to cry themselves to sleep

We know this can be a difficult subject to tackle but an important one to get right. If you need any help or support in this matter please call 02476 714873 or email

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