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It can be difficult when our child’s behaviour changes without a clear explanation. It can feel upsetting, frustrating and annoying to us as parents, carers or teachers; we want our children to be happy.

The first thing for us to remember is that behaviour is a form of communication, underneath which lies emotions. Children need our support to feel their emotions, move through them safely and come out of the other side. Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, our child is communicating something to us and we just need the tools to translate what their behaviour is saying. Below are some techniques which I use regularly when working with children and young people who are having a tough time.

Basic needs

Just as we would check a crying baby to see if it is fed, dry, burped and well-slept, we can do the same with older children and young people. Have their basic needs been met today? Sometimes there is no quicker solution than a hug, a snack, a time out or a rest.

Just add water

There is something mystical about the power of water. Give them a drink, a bath or put them near a body of water (lake, pool, seaside) and notice their mood shift down a gear. If none of that is available, putting sounds of running water or a rainstorm on your phone or speaker can help too. Research shows that our brains produce similar sound waves when we sleep to when we hear water.

HALT checklist

A great mental checklist to run through: Hungry / Angry / Tired / Lonely

  • Hungry: Do they need a snack, a drink or a meal?
  • Angry: Do they need some space to vent, or time alone to calm down?
  • Tired: Are they physically or emotionally tired and need some quiet time, a nap or an earlier bedtime?
  • Lonely: Are they feeling heard? Do they get quality time with the adults in their life? Are they seeing friends outside of school?

It can be really powerful to talk HALT through with your child too, so they begin to notice their moods and label their feelings. You would just change each category into a question for them; “Are you hungry”, “How did you sleep last night?”, “Would you like to spend some 1:1 time with me later on?”

There are many triggers of challenging behaviour, and some which are deep rooted. If you try all of these techniques and nothing seems to be changing, please do get in touch with me to chat through the challenges and concerns. I’d love to hear from you.