When talking about behavioural issues in childcare I hear lots of focus about the negatives of it all from educators who are worn down and discouraged. How frustrating children with challenging behaviours are for the educators. How it isn’t fair that the educators have to put up with these challenging, sometimes aggressive behaviours. How the other children shouldn’t have to put up with this. How the parents should be doing more. How the educators didn’t sign up for this.
I would like to start by acknowledging that I too have worked with children with challenging behaviours in my 15 years experience, and I am not saying that there aren’t days that are harder than others. I would like to focus on the educators though and respond to some of these negatives that I hear and try and turn the mentality around to a more useful conversation…
“How frustrating children with challenging behaviours are for the educators” – If you think the behaviours are frustrating for you, imagine how the child feels. Their body is being overwhelmed by emotions they don’t know how to process nor do they understand. Our role as educators is to support the child and help them understand what is going on with them, and provide them with tools that they can use to better manage situations. We must also focus on the positives of every child, especially those children who are constantly hearing “no” and “stop” and “don’t”. We must congratulate the good, celebrate their efforts, throw a party every time an alternative response is explored successfully.
“How it isn’t fair that the educators have to put up with these challenging, sometimes aggressive behaviours” – The role of the educator is to connect with all children, and some children take a bit longer to connect with, and need a different approach, but it is definitely worth making those connections. Once a child feels supported and has a trusting relationship with at least one educator, they are likely to feel more secure and have less extreme behaviours. This is because the educator can notice the signs and triggers earlier and step in to help support the child before the behaviour escalates. The other benefit of developing a strong relationship with children with challenging behaviours is that they have a safe space to feel their emotions, and may even come to an educator to seek support from an educator when they feel a trigger occur.
“How the other children shouldn’t have to put up with this” – Our role as an educator is to support all children engage with the program. Children with challenging behaviours should be supervised more closely to limit the likelihood of their negative responses to situations, impacting the other children. It is also a key learning opportunity for all children to discuss more appropriate ways to negotiate or work through what is happening in a way that supports each child’s needs. Often we immediately remove the child with the behavioural issues, instead of understanding what happened and exploring whether another child triggered the behaviour through their own actions. We are here to support children develop social skills and not being present to witness and respond to these instances, and just assuming the child with the most aggressive response needs to be removed, is reinforcing inappropriate behaviours in others, not developing suitable skills and tools.
“How the parents should be doing more” – To this I have two different approaches. The first is that perhaps the parents are not equipped to do better and the child being in care is the best place for the child to be. It is then the role of the educator to fill in the gaps and support the child with as many tools to help them process their thoughts and feelings as possible. The second approach is to apply empathy, if the educator was living in the shoes of the parent for 24 hours how would they cope? It is all well and good to judge from outside, but put yourself in their shoes, and provide support, empathy and positivity wherever possible. In both instances parents need support, not judgement. Parents do not want to come in every day to hear about their child’s behaviours they are fully aware of. They want to hear about the positives, what they did well today, the things you threw a party for. Focus on those behaviours.
“How the educators didn’t sign up for this” – Most educators got into early childhood education and care to make a difference in a child’s life and help support them in their development. You can’t pick and choose which children you want to make a difference to. It is most rewarding to make a difference to those children who need more help, and you can change the trajectory of their whole lives. Reflect on what it is you signed in for and how best you can implement this.
It is the role of the educator to support the children, families and their colleagues. We often try to place blame instead of working together as a team to meet the needs of the child. We all have the ability to shift our mindset and for this to work, it needs to be a service level decision so everyone is on the same page and can motivate each other, instead of feeding off each other’s negative energy.
I have been asked whether I will do a behaviour guidance webinar, and I am reluctant to, because I believe this is something that needs to be targeted one service at a time, where specific behaviours and specific viewpoints can be put on the table and discussed openly with a consensus being agreed upon on how to move forwards. For this reason I would rather work with services and help meet their needs, than do a generic webinar that wont allow for the specifics to be discussed and may leave participants with more questions than answers.
If you would like service specific help with behavioural issues you are experiencing in your service, and the educator’s mindset around these issues, please feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to help support you with this, either through doing in-house training, or through a skype style meeting with your team, depending on where you are located.
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