Managing your child's challenging behaviour

Every child is different. Understanding your child’s challenging behaviour could help you to make a behaviour management strategy for home and school. This will usually mean working with your child, other adults at home and teachers on:

  • consistent rules
  • ways to reward positive behaviour
  • how to shape the environment at school or at home

Warning Sent home from school

The school can only send your child home because of their behaviour with a written formal notice from the head.

Being sent home includes:

  • being sent home to ‘cool off’ for a short time
  • asking to teach your child part-time

If your child is sent home without a written formal notice, it could be disability discrimination.

Informal exclusions (IPSEA)

Reasons for your child’s behaviour

All behaviour has a reason behind it. Children like feeling motivated and reassured. They do not enjoying feeling worried or afraid. Your child might not know what behaviour is appropriate.

Look for the reasons behind your child’s behaviour. Then you can plan a behaviour management strategy for home and school.

There are lots of reasons a child might not behave well, and you might not be able to change all of them. For example, a new supply teacher or a change in the school timetable.

See if you can find ways to help your child feel:

  • valuable
  • confident
  • connected to other people
  • that they can take care of themselves

For example, you could try asking your child open questions. These should be questions they cannot answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, such as:

  • What is your favourite subject in school?
  • If you could choose something to do, what would it be and why?
  • What do you think might happen next?

If you want to find out more, you could say:

  • tell me why
  • tell me more

Triggers for behaviour

Look for things that trigger challenging behaviour. These could be things your child does or things that happen to your child. Keeping a behaviour diary might help. Write down:

  • the date and time
  • the behaviour
  • what happened before
  • any consequences

Look for other triggers such as feeling frustrated, angry, hungry or tired. What your child eats could also be important.

Diet and behaviour in childhood (BBC Good Food)

Consistency and rules

Being consistent helps children to know when their behaviour is good, and when it’s challenging.

Tell anyone who looks after your child what the rules are. Make sure that your child knows them too. Make time to chat about them as a family, but try not to make it feel like a meeting. If you can, choose a time when your child is having a better day. Aim to include your child when you set rules.

Make a list of rules and put them in a place where your child can find them. If they’re young, you could ask them to draw a picture for each rule.

Praise and encourage your child when you notice them doing something right. Praise should be specific. Try to give praise while your child still remembers what they were doing. This can be hard when you are tired.

Giving your child limited choices can help

For example:

“Do you want to do your homework before or after dinner?” (do your homework)

“Do you want to wear your blue jumper or orange jumper?” (put on a jumper)

Talking to your child’s teachers

Look for ways to work together, so that you and the school can manage your child’s behaviour consistently.

This could be:

  • after you find out about an upsetting incident and have had time to think
  • at the beginning of term

You could also ask to meet more often if you need to. You could talk about:

  • your child’s strengths
  • making adjustments at school that would encourage positive behaviour, for example being able to play with their favourite thing during quiet times, taking breaks or making things less stimulating
  • ways for your child to tell the teacher how they are feeling
  • anything that your child’s teacher has noticed

You could also talk about ways to keep your child motivated in school.

Keeping your child motivated in school

Special educational needs

Special educational needs (SEN) support includes looking at:

  • how your child interacts
  • their social, emotional and mental health needs

You could ask the school if SEN support would help manage your child’s behaviour. This might include support from an educational psychologist.

If SEN support is not enough to meet the needs of your child, you could ask the school to review it. If that does not work, you could ask for an education, health and care (EHC) plan assessment. You can ask the school or apply directly to your local authority.

SEN support and EHC plans can both include training for staff on how to manage your child’s condition.

Support for your child at school: SEN and EHC plans

If your child’s teacher cannot help

If there has been an incident, wait until you feel more calm. If talking to your child’s class teacher does not work, try talking to someone more senior. Follow the school’s complaints procedure. This should be published on their website. This will mean complaining in writing to:

  1. the headteacher
  2. the school’s governors or academy trustees

If following the school’s complaints procedure does not work, you can complain to the Department for Education (DfE).

Complain about a school or childminder (GOV.UK)

Talking to your child

Talk to your child about what behaviour is and is not acceptable.

Being on the same team as your child will make it easier to share responsibility and solve the problem.

For example, you could say:

“Something is going on at school. How are we going to solve it?”

Support outside of school

Talk to your child’s paediatrician and NHS multidisciplinary disability team about any support that they can provide.

Clubs and groups

Going to clubs outside of school could help your child to get the support that your child needs. Having the chance to make friends might improve their behaviour.

Helping your child to make friends and feel included

Talk to other parents in Scope’s online community

Managing your stress

Many parents feel worried and stressed. Looking after your needs will make you a better parent. If you’re feeling worried or stressed, you can get help.

Managing your stress as the parent of a disabled child

Last reviewed by Scope on: 08/07/2019

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