Child under cushions

Dealing with Challenging Behaviour

‘Challenging behaviour’ is a very broad term to define when a child acts out of character and causes distress to themselves, parents, carers, teachers and other professionals. It can include temper tantrums, physical harm such as hitting or kicking other people, harming themselves and throwing things.

You can classify behaviour as challenging if it is harmful to them or others around them. It may also stop them getting involved in their usual daily activities such as concentrating on homework or at school and playing with friends or creating new friendships.

How do you manage challenging behaviour when a child has a learning disability?

Whilst challenging behaviour is not a learning disability, children with a disability are more likely to show challenging behaviour, which can be due to them struggling to communicate and expressing frustration at things they cannot do due to their disability.

Challenging behaviour may also indicate that something is wrong with your child, especially if they are very young and cannot tell you in any other way, that they may be in pain or discomfort for example.

What causes challenging behaviour, and can I do anything to stop it?

Every child is different and therefore what causes them to get upset will depend on the child. There is no one cause, but being aware of the environment they are in, the relationships or how they are interacting with other children and adults as well as general discomfort and frustration are all common reasons for them to act out of character.

Taking your child to one side and talking to them about why they are behaving in the way they are and allowing them to tell you what is upsetting them is the first step in helping to overcome their challenges and help them to communicate more effectively.

If you are worried that your child is demonstrating challenging behaviour on a regular basis and causing harm to themselves or others, you may wish to speak to your GP who may then refer you to another professional, such as a child psychologist if you think that it may be sign of a mental health problem.

How I deal with Challenging Behaviour in My Home

Promoting positive behaviour is very important for the children in my care as I have several of them to look after at once. Setting rules and guidelines for them to work with is essential in ensuring they get along with each other as much as possible.

I do this by:

  • Giving lots of praise for good behaviour
  • Giving the children individual attention so they feel valued
  • Setting a good example, being a good role model
  • Listening to what the children have to say
  • Rewarding good behaviour (allowing them to choose the next activity for example).

All the children understand the house rules, which are realistic and achievable by all of them and I am consistent in the enforcing the rules so that I do not give out confusing signals.

I am aware of the different reasons why children misbehave and will endeavour to keep to routines so that children feel safe and cared for and that they are not tired or hungry which can also cause them to misbehave.

How I Work to Diffuse Any Challenging Behaviour in My Home

I have strategies in place that I use to calm situations and these also depend on the child’s age and ability. This includes:

  • Distraction – Remove the child from the situation and give them an alternative activity.
  • Discussion – If the child can understand, I will discuss their behaviour and try and get them to appreciate the consequences of their actions on others. I will make sure that they understand that it is their behaviour I am unhappy with, not them.
  • Time Out – Removing the child from the activity and sitting them quietly for a few minutes.

If occasionally a child misbehaves I let parents know verbally when they collect their child. Some children can become upset if the incident is retold in front of them, so as much as possible I take them to one side to let them know what has happened.

I also inform parents of how the matter was dealt with, which in most cases means that it doesn’t require any further action.

Managing challenging behaviour is par for the course when you have a child. They are usually testing boundaries for what they can or can’t get away with, but in most cases there are genuine frustrations that trigger them to act out.

It’s important to remember that they also mirror behaviour, so staying calm in difficult situations will help them to learn to do the same.

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