Hitting Out & Playing Up


Q. My toddler has started to hit out at some of the other children in his crèche – the staff have mentioned it to me a couple of times but I don’t know how to address it.

Inappropriate or challenging behaviour is any behaviour that may interfere with your child’s social interactions and learning opportunities. This could be hitting, pulling, shouting, not listening or running away. For younger children these behaviours may happen as a once off. They can be seen when kids are trying to find their feet in new social circles such as preschool or in the playground with other kids. When these behaviours are continuously happening, they can be problematic and negatively affect their social interactions. A positive and encouraging approach is the most effective way to guide a child through this. He is some of my top tips on how you can promote and encourage positive behavior at home, in their preschool or school setting.

It is important to understand that these behaviours are not happening with intent to cause harm to other children, or to purposely annoy you by not listening. They are likely happening because a situation is difficult or your child may not have the skills to appropriately engage. Through understanding this we can set the kiddies up for success.

Behaviour specific praise

If you are trying to increase appropriate behaviours, avoid using general praise statements such as ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’, what does “good” mean? Rather let the kids know why you’re praising them by telling them exactly what was “good”. For example, “you gave the toy to your sister”, “thanks for waiting”, “that’s lovely listening”, “you’re doing such nice playing with your brother”’ etc. This lets them see what behaviours gets praise and attention and which ones do not.

Catch the positive behaviour

Rather than focusing on inappropriate behaviour by commenting on it, acknowledge and praise the positive. It is important to ‘catch’ the good behaviour. Paying attention to the disruptive behaviour may only serve to prolong or increase the behaviour! Any behaviour your child engages in that you want to see more of, let them know how good it is. Also, let them know what they should do rather than what they shouldn’t do.  For example, rather than saying ‘Don’t run’, you could ask them to ‘slow down and walk’.

Lots of choice

This is easy to embed across the day in different ways (red or yellow pants, juice or milk, chicken or sausages, porridge or Weetabix, green or orange bowl). This can also be used to redirect when something is not allowed (No TV right now but you can go outside or look at your books). A lot of kids love this as it allows for independence and allows them to make decisions about their day.

It can take a little time to get used to implementing these but just remember to be consistent about your rules and instructions and, in time, they will learn to do it all by themselves!

Laura Kelly

Behaviour Specialist

For more information and support contact infostepbystepconsulting@gmail.com.

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