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Managing Behaviour – seriously?

I continue to be intrigued by the way the EYFS talks about ‘managing children’s behaviour’. Considering what we now know about how a child learns and develops, is ‘managing children’s behaviour’ still a useful term to use within Early Years?

My views are that we can’t manage children’s behaviour, as we need to give all children the skills and tools to regulate their own behaviour, so they can resolve conflict and be emotionally grounded both within their early years and beyond.

Educators can indeed help children with self-regulation, which is different from the traditional training in ‘behaviour management’ within Early Years.

Educators require skills such as recognising a child has suffered a trauma and supporting the child sensitively to help them communicate how they are feeling; assisting children to resolve conflict through negotiation and giving them the language skills to do so; helping children know they have a voice and are able to contribute to the setting’s values and how this links to ‘boundaries’.

As Educators, it is equally important we do not blame the child, as their behaviour – be it positive or negative – is their way of communicating to us that they have something to tell us. Incidentally, how do we define what is positive or negative behaviour? To quote Stuart Shanker We don’t just respect the child: we value the child. Every child. This is impossible when you see a child as ‘annoying’ or even ‘challenging.’  


I discuss this and more during my bespoke helping children to self-regulate their behaviour course, if you would like this course delivered within your setting, please email: admin@LauraHenryConsultancy.Com

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  • Penny Webb

    Rushed comment – but totally agree Laura. On a recent course about behaviour that I attended I caused a bit of a stir as I wrote nothing on my bit of paper about what I considered to be challenging behaviour – in feedback I explained that all behaviour has a reason and therefore to consider any behaviour as challenging started off on the wrong foot – ie the negative foot

  • Belinda Johnson

    Agree totally with the blog. The reasons, the ‘why’s’ are disregarded so often, and children are expected to conform to ‘acceptable’ or ‘appropriate’ behaviour, without acknowledging where the child is emotionally I believe that it is so important to give children the skills to negotiate and resolve differences.

  • Kim Benham

    Agreed. Anything suggesting a child or something to do with the child has to be “managed” starts you off on the wrong foot. Wrong word, wrong term!

  • Denise Wilson

    Totally agree with all comments! I often find that it is the adult that has a lack of knowledge around how children learn. By this I mean patterns of play ie schema. The child is engaged with a specific pattern for example Trajectory. The practitioner then sees a child tipping out resources constantly they view this as a “behaviour” problem! Instead they can be using this as an opportunity to support the child’s learning needs.

  • Stacy Mann

    Totally agree Laura. The way in which we speak as practitioners has a direct impact on the child, I am constantly informing practitioners that they are ‘golden nuggets’ in the children’s lives and that comes with responsibility. As adults we know what changes our disposition and in turn, know how to channel that energy to calm ourselves but even then there are times when we can ‘explode’ with emotion. Acknowledging the children’s feelings and allowing them to express their feelings is so important, I feel. I also think that the way in which that is done is paramount, ensuring that they understand that its a feeling/emotion, its not what you are!

  • Tracy Seed

    Mostly it’s all about recognising children’s needs.. feelings just flag that a need is either being met or it isn’t.. When we adopt needs based practice we are making progress:)

  • Mike Ollerton

    I have enjoyed reading your blog Laura as well as the ensuing comments. For me, where I spent most of my life in secondary mathematics classrooms I see important connections. Margaret Donaldson in “Children’s Lives” writes about the frailties of using star charts and the like as ways of giving extrinsic rewards to children by contrast the power of intrinsic ‘rewards’. I believe this is all part of the melange of supporting children’s development. I also believe what works well in EYFS classrooms is the same in any classroom through to degree and postgraduate. Thank you

  • Andrew Clifford

    Hi Everyone

    Have to concur with all the comments here – it’s not about ‘managing’ we need educators/practitioners to develop a deep understanding of each child’s needs and see their behaviour in the context of their learning/development. ‘Management’ infers ‘control’ and sets off on the wrong foot!

  • rennie hilton

    so a child hitting, spitting or kicking is acceptable? a child being completely defiant is acceptable? it rubs off on the other children, so what is the harm in teaching children right from wrong with a fun, fair focus at the end of the tunnel?

    • Laura Henry

      Hi Rennie, thank you for your comment.

      Where specifically, in the blog is it stated that this behaviour is acceptable?

      With self-regulation children are able to have an understanding of what is right and wrong, with the help of skilled educator.

      What we know about Neuroscience, Trauma and attachment research, informs our approach in how we support children with their behaviour.

      The research and evidence from Dr. Stuart Shanker, Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, Jane Evans and Dr Alfie Khon, et al, is an excellent starting point for reflections on how we view children’s behaviour.

  • Nikkie Amen

    Hi laura thanks for this post but i am struggling at the moment with some behaviours of children in the early years department at the moment. why is this?

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