Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Behaviour Management - Norland's Approach


Elspeth Pitman 
Early Years Consultant 

One of the hot topics parents always ask is what the ‘Norland secret’ is in regards to behaviour management and in truth there isn’t one! We know that no two children and no two families are the same and individual approaches need to be carefully considered before they are applied to any family or child.

However, there are two top tips that we at Norland think can help to manage any children’s behaviour:

First, it is important to try and understand why the child’s behaviour might be occurring. A child’s behaviour will be a reaction to something in their lives, find out what this ‘something’ is so you can look at treating the cause. Some common ‘causes’ include, the child feeling unwell or being over-tired; there being unrealistic pressures on them or if they are receiving mixed confusing messages. Understanding why a child is displaying behaviours we may deem unacceptable will help you avoid the situation in the future and help to explain to the child what behaviours you would expect in that situation and help them learn.

For example, a toddler might be at the stage where we start to teach them to be more independent with potty training and feeding themselves, yet they might find themselves being told off for spilling their drink as they try to help themselves. Here the toddler is confused about what is expected of them, one minute they are being told to be independent and the next they are being told off for doing so. This is where the toddler’s behaviour is likely to be labelled with the famous ‘toddler tantrums’ and shrugged off as being a phase. But are we considering the child’s self-esteem and their innate desire to learn and succeed in what they see the adults doing in the world around them? They should be praised and encouraged to try again and perhaps consider how you can help the toddler achieve this next time without spilling.  

Having a better understanding of why children behave the way they do can often be quite empowering in managing children’s behaviour. Children are not born ‘naughty’, a word we would not recommend using as it labels the child and isn’t helpful for the child in understanding what they need to do differently. A child who is given attention when being disruptive, or is not given clear guidance on what behaviour is desired instead, will be likely to continue with the unwanted behaviour.

Second, try and notice and acknowledge the positive things your child is doing. This might seem to be an obvious piece of advice, but it is often one that we forget to do in the busy day to day. When a child is playing nicely our default tends to be to leave them to it in fear that we might interrupt their play. Children are often told what to stop doing, but we forget to tell them what they should be doing instead! When giving praise it is also important to make sure it is specific, ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’ is not wrong, but it is not very clear. A young child who is doing 100 things in a minute will not be able to pick out which of their 100 actions they are doing well, so make sure you tell them.

For example, ‘well done, you are eating very nicely’. At this moment we might even choose to ignore the fact that the child a moment earlier dropped some food on the floor. The child is more likely to continue to eat nicely in order to receive more praise and less likely to continue to drop food on the floor, which is not receiving any attention.

It is worth considering the emotional impact continual negative feedback can have on a child. What are we telling them if they are predominantly given attention when doing what they shouldn’t be doing and constantly told ‘no’, ‘don’t or ‘stop’. This is teaching the child what to stop doing but not teaching them what they should be doing instead. There is also the danger that the child will start to view themselves in a negative light believing that they cannot do anything right which ultimately might result in low self-esteem.

I have seen huge success within families who implement these two top tips, often resulting in a more harmonious day for all. The adult invariably has a better understanding of the child’s reasons for displaying unwanted behaviour and can support the child in learning to manage this behaviour. This will lead to less frustration from both the adult and child with a more positive atmosphere throughout the day. It is ultimately important to remember that children are not born understanding the complexities of the world and need a loving and consistent environment in which they feel safe to get things wrong, are taught how to do things in a better way and allowed to try again.

I believe that the Norland motto ‘Love Never Faileth’, which our founder Emily Ward bequeathed to all Norlanders in 1892, is still relevant today in all aspects of our care and education of children. With this motto in mind, all Norland Nannies are also expected to uphold the Norland Code of Professional Responsibilities when managing behaviour to ensure that physical and emotional wellbeing of the child is never compromised. Both parents and children should be treated with the upmost respect at all times recognising their unique nature as individuals.

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