How to manage behaviour

One of the most challenging factors of being a parent or even an educator for that matter, is the issue of managing behaviour. As adults, when confronted with what we consider bad behaviour we get frustrated, confused and very annoyed. The proverbial answer is usually to get out the good old stick, cane or belt and lash out. Today we want to look at this issue in-depth and find out what else we can do to manage behaviour at home or in the classroom.

The behaviour I am referring to here, would be considered bad behaviour, when a child defiantly refuses to do as he is told, bites, kicks, shouts, and hits other children.

What should you do?

It all has to do with our mindset. We need to make some changes, tweak at how we look at things and then the change will occur, bit by bit, one step at a time until we find that there is change.

The first mindset tweak that I find helps is to realise that each child is unique. They are uniquely different so one size does not fit all. If we really think that the cane, a parenting book, or parenting style will solve our child’s problem we may be getting it totally wrong and heading for disaster.

Our goal as parents and educators is to prepare these children for life ahead, we cannot do this effectively if we can’t even get them to behave right. Since each child is different, it follows that the causes of misbehaviour may and will be different in each child. You therefore cannot use the same and only solution to solve the problem of all children.

Each child is an individual, we must understand the individual child and find out what lies underneath the behaviour. This brings me to my second point, children misbehave because something in their environment is not right for them. They are trying to tell us that something is wrong! They are not being naughty because they want to be naughty, they do not know any better way to tell us that something is wrong, so they misbehave.

We usually misinterpret the behaviour as rudeness or an attack on our person. It is important to take a step back from this very damaging view-point and consider what is happening from the child’s and not the adults view point. Instead of thinking:

This child is so rude to me!

Why not think or say, ‘Dele is having a hard time doing what he is told to do’

This is my third point, it is not all about you or me, the adult. It is all about this child. All behaviour is communication. So once you have shifted the focus from the adult to the child and you have put into words what is happening, try to figure out why and when these behaviours occur.

Nothing good really comes easy. It is hard work especially if patience is not one of your virtues, it is not really mine either. (I have had to pray and hold back many times.) You will notice if you really focus on what is going on that there are patterns and reasons for the behaviour. To manage behaviour we must crack the code of the why, when and how things go wrong so we can find solutions to change the narrative.

Consider Dele, he is a three and a half-years old in nursery school. He was working with some Mathematics manipulative and then his teacher called out to everyone to put away their work so they could sit with her as she had something else for them to do. Everyone else except Dele put back their work and went to sit with the teacher. Dele did not get up and when the teacher went to him and asked him again very nicely to pack up his work and come and join them he turned round and shouted:


(If it were you this happened to what would you have done?)

The teacher simply said to him.

‘OK then, you can join us when you are done.’

She went back to her seat and continued with the lesson she had planned for the children. She was half way through it, when Dele joined the class to listen into the rest of the lesson.

I know that this grates at a lot of us and we wont stand for this kind of behaviour. But lets look at what is going on here.

Dele was really concentrating and enjoying learning from the work he was doing. The teacher calling out to him to stop what he was doing just to follow the school diary was distracting him, so he refused to budge.

If the teacher had insisted, she would have spent the better half of ten minutes trying to resolve the meltdown that would have ensued. She instead allowed Dele the needed extra time he needed. This enabled the class to go on as planned and Dele could join in when he was ready.

His teacher made a note though about the retort he had given and decided to talk to the children on how to handle situations when they needed more time to complete something they are working on.

We tend to run a very rigid  system in our classrooms and schools. These systems add to the frustration of our young ones in the early years. They want to learn but we disrupt them, then when they misbehave we get angry. Most of the time if we look a bit deeper we will find that it is of our own doing.

She also decided to spend some quality time with Dele, to get to know him more, what were his likes and dislikes, she noted down other not so serious outbusts and tried to get a feel for what triggered his outburst and defiance. She discovered that it always happened when he was working on something that caught his interest. He hated interruptions. (Most Montessorians in the house will understand fully well where Dele was coming from)

To build up a good rapour with the children Miss Ayo spent more time individually with the children and made sure she told them at least one thing they did correctly each day. This is my last point for today. We spend so much time correcting the children:

Don’t do this, don’t do that!



Have you noticed that these are all negative statements?

I remember a long time ago when I used to work in the Ministry, we were taught that for every correction we give we must try to let the person see ten things they have done well. The reason behind this was, if you only correct then the person may feel down and worthless, but someone whom you had previously been building up their self-esteem may more likely be able to take a knock or two in their stride later on. This same principle applies to our relationships with our spouses, family members and children.

Yes we need to correct and train our children but please let us remember to build them up as well.

To manage behaviour, we must accept that each child is different, find out what is not working for the child in the environment we have created for them, we must realise that if something has gone wrong and they are misbehaving, it’s not about us, the adult, but about the child trying to communicate. It is also important to build up the child’s self-esteem. We can manage our children better if we change our mindset.wadi-lissa-360921-unsplash (1)

Photo by Wadi Lissa on Unsplash




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