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Is this what we all try to do with different degrees of success?

Positive behaviour management

Being a young child can be difficult at times; learning to comprehend, interpret and express the growing thoughts, needs and feelings can leave little ones feeling confused and frustrated.

It’s therefore hardly surprising that even the best-behaved children sometimes misbehave so it’s important to have strategies in place which help to minimise the likelihood of this happening, and to also deal with it effectively when it inevitably does occur.

Positive behaviour management focuses on rewarding desirable actions and attitudes, and helping the child make a good choice. This is turn will make them feel good about themselves and ultimately create a positive cause and effect cycle.

Here are a few ideas about positive behaviour management for children and how to apply it.

Sticking to promises

One of the most frequent reasons that children “act up” is because they feel a sense of outrage or injustice even though they may not be able to articulate this in words.

Whether it’s another child snatching their toy, or you failing to do what you promised, a sense of injustice can make the red mist appear.

Setting boundaries with children can be a challenge, but is ultimately rewarding

If you promise to do something, make sure you always follow up and do what you said you will, when you said you will do it. This helps to earn the respect and trust of the child and helps them understand that you mean what you say.

Don’t give in…..

A child has an almost limitless ability to whinge and carry on about seemingly the most inconsequential of matters, but if you’ve told them the answer is “no”, it’s essential you stick to what you’ve said.

Giving in or changing your mind gives the child the message that if they carry on you’ll eventually cave in; not the cause and effect lesson you want them to learn!

Consistency and clear boundaries are essential to help the child understand what is expected and what behaviours won’t be tolerated.

…but pick your battles

Although it’s important to instill boundaries and a sense of discipline, there’s no need to make everything a battle.

Remember once you’ve asked a child to do something, or told them no, you need to follow through so before you open your mouth, ask yourself whether this is really something you want to potentially cause a battle over….or whether it’s something you can let slide.

Minimise temptation

Helping the child to display good behaviour can start to create a feel-good cycle, where they learn to enjoy positive feedback.

One way to help encourage this is to do your best to help them succeed, and not putting temptation in their way. Remove items which you think will test their resilience and you’ll be helping them succeed rather than setting them up to fail.

Catch them being good!

If you can catch a child in the act of carrying out a desirable action or exhibiting the kind of behaviour you want to see, it’s the ideal opportunity to give them positive feedback.

When given the option between what they perceive as no attention, and receiving negative attention, children will nearly always plump for the latter. Therefore it’s important to demonstrate that they will get far more attention, praise and feedback when they’re behaving well than when they are not.

Make sure you catch your child being good!

Generally, where possible a ratio of at least 6:1 between positive comments and reprimands is considered a good balance. This helps to reinforce the message about good behaviour attracting positive attention.

Be prepared for the worst

Even the loveliest of children have days where things seem difficult and a temper tantrum is never far away. Having strategies reason to cope with this, and spotting the signs means that you can minimise any looming melt down.

Techniques such as giving a 5 minute warning before changing activity, making the child feel important by giving them a task to complete and using simple, positive language can make a real difference.

And when they’re struggling, getting down to their level and helping them to voice how they’re feeling – “I think you might be feeling a bit cross because you wanted to carry on playing with the bricks” – can be a great way to diffuse simmering tension and show them that you understand how they’re feeling.


One of the simplest but most important rules to remember is that what goes in children’s ears generally comes out of their mouth at a later stage. An environment which is negative, critical and full of yelling will produce the same type of behaviour in a child. Conversely, calm voices, and fair but clear boundaries will not only help the child understand what’s expected but will also provide a good role model for their own behaviour too.