Children test boundaries. It’s what they do. And it’s not because they’re being naughty or nasty, it’s simply because they’re learning to survive in the big world. It’s natural, but that doesn’t mean childcare centres can’t employ strategies to help combat these small boundary tests before they become big behavioural problems. In fact, behaviour management strategies in child care are crucial to your child’s growth and development.

What are behaviour management strategies?

Behaviour management is about teaching children how to behave in the right way. It is a positive and constructive way to guide children’s behaviour, giving them attention when they behave well, rather than punishing them when they do something wrong.

All children act differently in different situations, and as such, the management of their behaviour differs between children. Some children respond to a particular strategy, while others relate to something else. This could include:

  • Not allowing negotiations on a child’s behaviour
  • Letting the child decide on the consequences of their actions
  • Redirection: switching a child’s attention to something else
  • Ignoring a child’s behaviour that doesn’t hurt or harm others (such as stamping their feet)
  • Strike a deal – for example, if a child does something for 10 minutes, they get 10 minutes of free playtime
  • Allow children to rest in between learning tasks
  • Rewarding children for doing well – they get extra time doing something they enjoy
Behaviour management strategies in childcare

Why are they important?

Managing children’s behaviour in childcare is crucial as it helps children learn more effectively. In environments where expectations are clearly established, children do a better job of modelling good behaviour for their classmates. A behaviour management approach in a child care facility allows teachers to set a strong foundation of positive interactions. 

Behaviour management strategies:

  • give children more control over their actions
  • teach children about the regulations and expectations of the early learning environment
  • ensure the school environment becomes less chaotic
  • give teachers and early childhood educators a better understanding of the underlying causes of poor behaviour
  • allow children to receive additional assistance where necessary
  • enable recognition and rewards for appropriate behaviour

The benefits of behaviour management strategies in childcare

Behaviour management in childcare has a number of advantages, and a behaviour plan, which has been established and distributed to the children and their parents, ensures everyone is aware of their responsibilities. 

This has resulted in a better understanding of what people can and cannot expect from themselves and their peers and what is expected of them and their peers. When expectations are clearly conveyed, anxiety is lowered as a result of the reduced number of unknowns. Here are some of the benefits of effective behaviour management strategies:

It enhances their development and social abilities

A behaviour management approach allows children to communicate with their peers, teachers and family. They develop greater self-awareness and become more competent at recognising when their activities interfere with other people’s well-being. It also teaches them about social norms and allows them to become more aware of themselves.

It provides a framework for social emotional learning

Behaviour management provides a framework for social emotional learning (SEL). SEL is designed to give children the chance to practise the skills they will need in the real world – starting at an early age. Things like self-control and self-awareness are crucial throughout their life – and they begin here.

It allows for tailored learning for specific children

Children all have different needs when it comes to behaviour management and some children may require more assistance than others. Embracing behavioural management strategies in a childcare centre allows teachers to tailor their learning to suit those children. That way, all children in their care can thrive, regardless of challenging behaviour, social skills, and power struggles.

It creates an environment for positive behaviour

Implementing a behaviour management system guarantees students are included and that their needs are adequately met. It establishes expectations for good behaviour and ensures positive behaviour can be recognised and reinforced. As a result, children feel safer in the school environment and can thrive in a positive atmosphere.

Positive behaviour as a result of behaviour management strategies in childcare

Important behaviour management strategies

A general behaviour management plan focuses on positive interactions with children by ensuring that they feel safe, cared for, and supported, allowing them to learn and grow in the childcare environment. The following strategies can be adopted by childcare centres:

Setting expectations

Set expectations for desired behaviour when you start a new year of care or even a new term or season. Ensure the centre has a list of behaviour that you do, and don’t, expect from children. Be as specific as possible about the rules that will be in place and why they will be necessary. This will assist you in maintaining control over their behaviour, and it will also be effective for emphasising the consequences of their behaviour if it doesn’t meet expectations. Then, work out the most straightforward way to explain these expectations to the child, taking into consideration the child’s age. It could be a talk, drawings on a board, or something else to ensure children understand the appropriate ways to behave.

Structured and routine environment

Children need structure to know what they should do, make them feel safe and organised, and follow a routine. Having a lot of structure in a child’s life can make them feel more safe and secure. When there are unexpected changes, their safety and security can be affected, making them nervous. When they have consistent routines and expectations, they can adapt to changes as they happen. 

There are many structures and routines that help kids learn how to control their behaviour, for example children make the choice to follow them or deal with the consequences. If you are consistent with how you respond to good and bad behaviour, your kids are more likely to change their behaviour.

Reward system

A reward system is an excellent way to demonstrate to young children how well they behave. The importance of fair and consistent incentive systems in providing children with motivation and encouragement should not be underestimated. It could be as simple as choosing which game the class gets to play after lunch, being first in line for an outing or special event (first to choose a cupcake, for example), and getting to sit next to the teacher during a lesson, and so on. Or it could be a star or chart system.

Collaborating with parents

You cannot develop a great behavioural management plan without the help and support of parents. Any strategies employed by one party should be employed by the other. Collaboration with parents could be:

  • Holding meetings or sending emails providing an update on a child’s behaviour (at home and childcare)
  • A tool that keeps track of behaviour that parents and centres have access to
  • Parents joining children for special events, such as field trips

Once centres establish a behaviour plan, parents should be notified, and a meeting can be scheduled to discuss the plan in greater detail. 

Communicating with students

While talking within the centre and to parents about behavioural management strategies is crucial, telling the students is more important. You can’t expect children to read your mind – if you have behaviour strategies in place, let them know. Again, this relates back to expectations. Tell children what you expect from them, and what will happen if they don’t meet those expectations. And, on the other hand, you should also praise good behaviour.

Reinforce good behaviour

Although you should certainly pull children up on bad behaviour, it’s just as important that you recognise and reward good behaviour. It doesn’t matter how old, or young, someone is. They thrive on positive reinforcement. Even if a child has been testing your patience all done, the moment they do something “right”, you should recognise it as a way to encourage more positive behaviour. Make an effort to provide positive feedback to each child at least once every day to encourage them.

Support children

There are two great ways you can support children. First, if children are acting inappropriately, speak to them alone rather than in front of others in the class. Remind them of the positive things they should be doing and speak about what they can do differently next time they are around.

Second, set a positive example. Children often mimic the actions of adults they observe. Provide an example of appropriate behaviours so children learn how to connect and communicate with others in a positive manner.

Behaviour management strategies in childcare

Implementing strategies

Not sure how to start? Here are some suggestions based on what we’ve covered above:

  1. Establish realistic expectations: Remember that children are still learning what appropriate behaviour looks like, so provide them with plenty of opportunities to observe. Don’t overwhelm children with so many rules that they become disoriented and lose track of them all at the same time. To ensure that children fully comprehend the things you’re teaching them, use concrete examples and visual aids whenever possible.
  2. Develop a schedule for your daily activities and incorporate routines. A child’s self-confidence, satisfaction, and positive behaviour are all enhanced when they have a high sense of security. Many children benefit from regular repetition of a visual routine to keep their attention.
  3. Providing positive reinforcement and attention are powerful techniques for encouraging positive behaviour. Children need to understand that their efforts will be acknowledged and rewarded. An encouraging phrase or a friendly smile can go a long way towards encouraging youngsters to improve their behaviour.
  4. Make a list of possible incentives for good behaviour. The use of a reward chart or menu is a great way to demonstrate to kids that good classroom behaviour is valued and cherished in the classroom.
  5. Ensure children know who is in charge. When children engage in inappropriate behaviour, it is an educator’s obligation to maintain control by refraining from being upset or defensive. Instead, they should try to offer empathy and compassion. 
  6. Document bad behaviour. By writing down bad behaviour as it happens, you may be able to understand what led to that behaviour in the first place. And in turn, you can then consider the steps you should take to prevent it from happening again.
  7. Choose an outcome. You have two options here – you can either ignore the bad behaviour, which is often a good idea in terms of tantrums or behaviour that isn’t hurting or harming others. Or you can acknowledge the behaviour and implement punishments, such as taking away a favourite toy for the rest of the day.

Remember, it takes a village to raise a child and a collaborative effort between parents and childcare centre workers will ensure a consistent and effective behaviour strategy.

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