Positive behaviour management is about using positive rather than negative approaches to encourage children and young people to behave appropriately. Promoting positive behaviour involves:
Setting clear boundaries, which are applied in a calm and consistent way
Encouraging children and young people to make their own choices about behaviour – and to understand the negative consequences if they choose inappropriate behaviour
Setting ‘positive’ rules rather than ‘negative’ ones. Negative rules tend to begin with the word ‘Don’t’, and tell children and young people what they must not do, but do not guide them as to what they may or should do.
In trying to understand behaviour, it is helpful to note whether there are particular incidents or
situations that seem to trigger inappropriate behaviour. Some of these can be avoided altogether by minor changes in routine or approach, but others, such as siblings teasing each other, will occur frequently, children and young people therefore need to be given strategies and support to be able to cope with them effectively. It is important never to reject the child but only what the child has done (for example, ‘That was an unkind thing to say’ rather than ‘You are unkind’).
Antecedent: what happens before, or leads up to, the observed behaviour
Behaviour: the observed behaviour – what the child says and how he or she acts (this is any behaviour, both positive and negative).
Consequence: what happens following the observed behaviour.
Part of the role is to observe children and young people’s behaviour, whether or not you make a written record, so that you can contribute to discussions about a child’s behaviour and develop positive practice in managing inappropriate aspects. In your work setting you should try to see not only how other staff and parents deal with incidents, but also which methods seem to be effective with which children or young people.
There are different forms of reward:
verbal praise (such as ‘Well done’)
attention – this could be non- verbal (smile of approval, a nod)
stars or points (for older children) leading to certificates or for group recognition
sharing success by telling other staff and parents
own choice of activity or story
tangible rewards such as stickers.
Rewards work on the principle of positive reinforcement – based on the idea that if children and young people receive approval and/or a reward for behaving acceptably, they are likely to want to repeat that behaviour. If one child is praised (for example, for tidying up) others are often influenced to copy or join in so that they, too, will receive praise and attention.
For young children, the reward must be immediate so that they understand the link between it and the positive behaviour. It is of little value to promise a treat or reward in the future. Similarly, star charts and collecting points are not appropriate for children younger than five years old.
Children learn about positive behaviour – such as sharing and saying ‘thank you’ – by watching others. They can also learn about inappropriate behaviours – such as being unwilling to share and swearing – from watching adults. You need to act as a positive role model for children and young people. You can do this by modelling positive behaviour. Children will try to copy your behaviour, so you need to show positive behaviour at all times.
Be able to respond to inappropriate behaviour
Children will do just about anything to get the attention they crave from parents and carers. This is often shown through disruptive (making noises, not responding to an instruction) or aggressive behaviour and needs managing as identified below. Sometimes children who are trying to please can be just as disruptive. Those who desperately want adults to notice them will call out, interrupt, ask questions and frequently push in front of...