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Parent guide: promoting positive behaviours


Toddler playing

Being a parent is an amazing experience with many magical moments that create a lifetime's worth of memories. However, you’ll also face some challenges and these aren’t always easy to overcome.


Supporting your child’s behaviour can be one of those challenges, it’s often a difficult and stressful time.


Every parent’s experience is different, with some children exhibiting more challenging behaviours than others but don’t worry – you’re not alone in experiencing this.

To help, we’ve written this guide all you need to know guide with the support of the National Day Nurseries Association.


Let’s jump straight into our guide to promoting positive behaviours!


Why do children display challenging behaviours?


Young children often display unwanted behaviours when their needs aren’t being met in some way e.g. if they’re tired or hungry.


You might notice this when your little one is too young to use their words so can’t communicate effectively what they need.


In these instances, it’s important to stay calm and look at their behaviour in this perspective. If you become frustrated or angry, it will only model the behaviour to your little one – so they will think it’s an acceptable way to behave and copy it.


Many children have patterns of behaviour that practitioners refer to as schemas.

Often these can appear negative to adults, but they are just part of your child’s development.


This can include dropping things repeatedly (known as a trajectory schema), repeatedly filling and emptying boxes, bins and bags (known as an enveloping and containing schema) and more.


Alternatively, the child may have needs that have not been identified, e.g. underlying educational or physical needs/disability such as a hearing impairment.


Toddler and mother

Behaviour management


Positive behaviour management is all about using a positive rather than negative approach to encourage children to understand their behaviours and the impact they have on themselves and those around them.

There will be times when you will have to use strategies to stop negative behaviour but it's best to prevent this behaviour in the first place through praising, rewarding, and giving attention.


10 tips to encourage positive behaviours


  • Be Consistent

Try to adopt a consistent approach to behaviour so your child can quickly develop their understanding of what is expected.


  • Provide Positive Role Models

Children learn from those around them. It is important for them to have positive role models who follow the rules and boundaries themselves.


  • Have Clear and Realistic Expectations

Rules or boundaries that are achievable are a vital part of daily life. These may include walking safely inside, looking after toys and keeping their hands to themselves.


  • Positive Reinforcement

Positive feedback is the best and most effective way of promoting positive behaviours and minimising unwanted ones. Children need to know when they are getting it right through your positive body language, tone of voice, praise and compliments, encouragement etc.


  • Pre-Planning

Children often misbehave when their routine is changed and they feel insecure, even if the routine is being altered because of something exciting. Try to prepare your child wherever possible about any changes.


  • Distraction

Many young children can be diverted from inappropriate behaviour by turning their attention to something else.


  • Choices

Offering choices can be used to take conflict out of situations. Giving your child this choice will encourage them to start making their own decisions and give them a better understanding of why you ask them to do something.


  • Problem-Solving

As your child rushes over to you and tells you what their problem is, do not rush in to give them a solution. Repeat back what they have told you, acknowledge how they feel about the situation and then ask them, ‘how are we going to solve this?’.


  • 1, 2, 3 Magic

When asking your child to do something say: ‘I will count to three and then... (give an offer of a positive reward or alternatively a boundary)’.


  • Structures and Routines

Young children find routines safe and reassuring and are more likely to behave appropriately within structures they feel comfortable with.


Toddler laughing

Working with your child’s nursery


Whatever nursery you’re registered with, your little one will have their own ‘key person’.


The role of the key person is to initially settle your child, share information, informing you about your child’s day.


If your child displays any unwanted behaviour the key person should inform you in private and depending on the issue you may be asked to sign an incident form. They will then discuss what might be causing this and the best way to curve the behaviour.


If you have any concerns or questions speak to your little one’s key person or nursery manager. They will be able to offer advice and further information.


Additional needs


Children who have additional needs may have greater frustrations, especially if they do not have the words or signs to express themselves. This can sometimes result in tantrums, screaming, hurting others, breaking things, feeding problems and lack of sleep.


If you are worried about your child’s behaviour, you should seek further support by speaking with your nursery manager/key person or GP.

It is important that you work together and share information with the nursery, especially your child’s key person. The nursery will conduct observations that will also identify any triggers that may be affecting your child’s behaviour.


Supporting children’s behaviour is easier when everyone works together and implements the same strategies.


This provides consistency for your child and makes any strategy easier to implement at home as your child is used to the approach.


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