This article intends to highlight a series of easy to implement behaviour practises to help young people both at home and at school. Teachers may find this useful when thinking about their students and lesson planning. Parents may also find it useful when working through behaviours at home or as a conversation tool between parents and school.
How behaviour and communication are linked
Firstly, all behaviour is a communication of need. We need to consider what need is being communicated before reacting to the behaviour. It’s worth referring to child psychology here. Attachment Theory was first coined by John Bowlby. Bowlby’s attachment theory highlights the impact of family experiences on children’s emotional and behavioural well-being.
How children bond with their care giver during their developmental period (0-3 months) will dictate how they form and maintain relationships for life. Even before environmental factors have had an impact on a child, their attachment style will dictate how they manage social interaction. It’s important to note that these attachment styles may dictate likely behaviours, but they are not an indicator of neglect/abuse/safeguarding concerns once the child is older.
Different types of attachment
There are four types of attachment:
Securely attached children are often content in school and will present with predictable behaviours, whereas avoidant children tend to be withdrawn and quiet. An ambivalent child will be clearly anxious and will want to seek comfort a reassurance. And lastly, a disorganized child will present challenging behaviour’s – such as anger or will find it hard to socialize.
When teaching or parenting it’s worthwhile keeping attachment theory in mind. Having an understanding of a child’s needs based on their attachment style will allow you to develop a series of useful responses to the child. Focusing on the communication of the need, rather than the behaviour itself.
After 12 years of teaching in some of the country’s most challenging schools, I coined the term ‘Inclusive Behaviour Conversations’ when referring to the response us as adults have to a child’s behaviour. The term ‘conversations’ is key. The child is communicating a need, we need to talk back, open a dialogue if we are ever to address the behaviour. Sanctioning a child as a means to stop a behaviour may have impact in the short term. But in the long term their need is not met, their behaviour will present once more.
5 steps for having an Inclusive Behaviour Conversation
I have put together a step by step guide on how to have a ‘Inclusive Behaviour Conversation’:
1. Acknowledge wrongdoing – Highlight to the child that their behaviour is not okay
e.g. I have been called here as you were disrupting the learning of others
2. Give thinking time – Give the child 2 minutes of thinking time.
e.g. I am going to give you 2 minutes now just to breathe
3. Identify emotion – Thinking about thinking, helping children understand what they are feeling and opening up a supportive discussion.
e.g. “I’ve noticed you are tapping your foot. I’m wondering if this means you are anxious to be back in school”
4.Scaling Questions– Helping children grade their emotional response.
e.g. “How is your anxiety? Imagine a scale of one to ten. Ten being the highest, where are you? (child grades emotion). What can we do to bring it down to a seven?
5. Behaviour as communication of need – If a child needs longer to calm down or cannot articulate a response to your questions take them to the intervention room for a longer discussion or to write their feelings down.
e.g. I think it would be best if you came with me so we can unpick this further
Mindful watching – Watchful waiting, do not jump in straight away with a dramatic response to a child’s emotive response. Do not ‘diagnose’
e.g. Take some time to watch and wait, this will allow you time to assess the situation and may allow the child to self sooth. Avoid catastrophising student’s worries with your response.
So next time you feel you need to address a child’s behaviour, think back to this article and try to follow the five steps. As with any new strategy it will take time to perfect and embed. But giving this method time is worthwhile.
As with support over time your students or children will be the ones leading the conversation which will not only make your lives as parents and teachers easier it will also provide your children with a vital life skill. To be emotionally literate is one of the greatest skills with can develop in our young people to ready them for adulthood.