Managing Challenging Behaviour

The current coronavirus pandemic has given rise to unparalleled challenges at every level of society. The closure of schools and restrictions on movement for both adults and children has meant that many families face enormous challenges as they try to navigate through new ways of living together.

Homeschooling, and making sure our children complete their assigned work, can be challenging. Separated from their normal routines and social circles, bored children can become disruptive and may cause commotion within the family. Frustrated and worried parents may find that they are reacting to these challenges. These types of behaviours can escalate into repetitive cycles, ultimately resulting in the breakdown of relationships.

Here are seven tips that can help us to find our way through these testing times, helping to promote positive and cooperative behaviour within our families.

Remember, we are all doing the best you can in these unique times. Don’t be too hard on yourselves, we will all get through this together.

Tips on managing challenging behaviour

  • Keep things in perspective and stay positive by recognising that parenting is a real challenge. None of us is perfect and small changes can make a big difference. Look after yourself by taking time out to relax and reach out to friends or family for a little moral support
  • Set boundaries and clear rules which promote mutual respect. This gives children a sense of confidence in their surroundings and sets clear expectations of them. Decide on and agree the rules together, keeping them simple and visible to both of you. Be clear about your daily routine so your child knows what is going to happen at different parts of the day. Explain when things need to change. Calmly put in place practical, time-bound and fair sanctions to encourage your child to follow the rules you have both agreed on. Sanctions need to be agreed by all members of the family first so that they are not over-used, inconsistent or excessive
  • Children who feel confident in themselves and their place in the family are less likely to exhibit challenging behaviours or feel insecure. As parents, you can promote your child’s sense of security by spending focused time talking to them about their concerns and proving reassurance. A powerful boost for self-esteem for children is to praise their positive behaviours and achievements by making the praise specific to them. A good example might be, “I am really proud of you for doing your maths distance learning and keeping at it, even when you found those algebra questions tricky” instead of, “You have been good doing your work”
  • Lead by example and keep communication clear. When communicating with your child, try to be in the same room, make eye contact and reduce or remove distractions such as tablets and mobile phones. Be concise and check back with them that they have understood what you are saying/asking
  • Using rewards selectively but publicly within your home, for example on your fridge, can help encourage better behaviour in your children. Rewards are most effective when they are selective and given fairly to all children. Give encouragement timely and consistently for trying, as well as for succeeding
  • Avoid over-reacting to your child’s challenging behaviour. Take a breath and be prepared to walk away so you can gather your thoughts. Children can lose confidence in you if you lose your temper, leading to an increase their challenging behaviour. Using distractions can be helpful. Parenting can be demanding and emotive, particularly in these undulating times. As parents, we are not perfect. We do get upset with our children at times and say things that, after some reflection, we would like to take back. Be kind to yourselves!