Behaviour is shown in the way we act and react to situations. Patterns of behaviour are learned from the people around us, as well as the media and books. Children are influenced by the family and school. As they grow older, their peergroup and the culture of the wider community influence their responses. Certain types of behaviour are deemed to be acceptable while others are unacceptable. During roleplay it is acceptable for children to talk together, but at storytime all the children are expected to listen quietly to the storyteller. It takes time for children to learn to comply with the complex rules that define behaviour.

Children learn acceptable behaviour through:

  • positive role models
  • loving adults who have realistic expectations of children´┐Żs behaviour
  • clear and consistent expectations expressed verbally and non-verbally
  • fair and consistent boundaries of expected behaviour
  • appropriate rewards for acceptable behaviour

Learning to manage behaviour can be as easy as A B C

Antecedent - what happens before the behaviour occurs.
Behaviour - resulting behaviour is either acceptable or unacceptable.
Consequence - results of behaviour can be positive or negative.

You have to see things from the child's point of view!

For example: Mary Jane screams and refuses to eat the rice pudding. Nanny offers her some chocolate ice cream instead and Mary Jane stops crying. The trouble is she reacts like this whenever there is rice pudding for dinner.

It works like this!

Antecedent Behaviour Consequence
Nanny places a bowl of rice pudding infront of Mary Jane Mary Jane starts to cry. She screams, "Don't like it!" and kicks her legs. Nanny says, "Don't you like the delicious rice pudding?" She removes the rice pudding. "Don't cry! Would you like chocolate ice cream instead?" Mary Jane stops crying. She eats all the ice cream.
Next week, Nanny serves a bowl of rice pudding. Mary Jane looks at the rice pudding and starts to cry. Mary Jane refuses to eat her pudding.
Nanny says, "Eat up your pudding, then we will go to the park." Mary Jane screams loudly. She pushes the bowl of rice pudding away. Mary Jane gets down from the table. She is still screaming.
Nanny puts the rice pudding back infront of Mary Jane. "Be a good girl and eat up your lovely rice pudding." "You used to like It." "Come on, try a little." Mary Jane looks cross. Her face is red. She screams, "I'll not!" and pushes the dish away. Nanny tells Mary Jane to eat her food. She sounds stern. She tells Mary Jane she must eat the rice pudding, but the child refuses. She screams for 10 minutes until she is exhausted and the food is cold. Nanny tries coaxing her and scolding, but Mary Jane picks up the bowl of rice pudding and deliberately empties it on the floor.
The following week, Nanny puts a bowl of rice pudding infront of Mary Jane. Mary Jane screams and pushes the bowl away. Nanny calmly removes the rice pudding without any comment. Mary Jane cries for a minute then stops. She finishes her drink and politely asks if she may leave the table. Nanny gives permission and Mary Jane climbs down out of her chair.
Several weeks later, Nanny puts a bowl of rice pudding infront of Mary Jane. Mary Jane looks at the rice pudding. She picks up the spoon and tastes the pudding. She looks pleased and continues to eat until the bowl is empty. Nanny claps her hands and says, "Well done! You have finished all your rice pudding. What a good girl! Did you enjoy your rice pudding?" Mary Jane smiles and nods her head.

The behaviour is managed by changing the Consequence and rewarding the acceptable behaviour. The alternative way to handle this is never again to give Mary Jane rice pudding. You can influence the behaviour by stopping the Antecedent (but then she will never eat rice pudding).

How does it work?

Children will repeat a behaviour that receives a positive response.
Children will not repeat behaviour that receives no response, or a negative response.
The problem is knowing what rewards children.

If Nanny makes a fuss and spends 10 minutes telling Mary Jane she must eat her pudding. Nanny may try the best coaxing, explaining and telling off, but the child will not eat.
What is happening is Nanny's individual attention is rewarding Mary Jane. She will continue to refuse rice pudding and screaming to get her own way. Not responding will stop this behaviour.

What rewards children? What is a negative outcome for children?
Y adult attention- verbal + non-verbal, nod, wink, smiles
Y peer group attention
Y attention from other groups within the establishment
Y responsibilities within the group
Y extended privileges
Y choice of activity
Y tokens to exchange for privileges/ activities/ time
Y positive reports to parent or carer
L ignoring the behaviour
L adult attention directed towards a child who is behaving acceptably
L removal from a positive situation to a neutral or negative situation
L adult disapproval
L peer group disapproval
L loss of responsibility

It all depends on the age of the child.

  • 1 year old child understands approval for behaviour e.g. nods, smiles, tone of voice and also understands NO!
  • 2-3 years old child understands simple instructions and understands why some behaviours are encouraged.
  • 4 years old and over thinks independently about the reasons for rules. Children are able to discuss boundaries.

Strategies to prevent unacceptable behaviour patterns

  • Keep children occupied and interested.
  • Distract their attention to something positive.
  • Warning look.
  • Short rebuke - NO!
  • Remove the child from the situation.
  • Discuss the behaviour with the child.
  • Rewards for good behaviour.
  • Making restitution, saying sorry.
  • Removal of privileges.

Stategies for dealing with hurtful behaviour.

  • Tell the child it is wrong.
  • Explain why it is wrong.
  • Support the child who has been hurt.
  • Support the child who has shown hurtful behaviour.
  • Children who hurt may be hurting and they need to know adults still love them inspite of their hurtful behaviour.

    Clear rules		Praise	  	   Show correct behaviour
			Consistency	 		Consequences	  
	 Avoiding or preventing the antecedent (being one step ahead)

			Reinforcing good behaviour 

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