Appendix A: Managing children’s behaviour

This is a supplement to the Managing Children’s Behaviour Policy and should be read in conjunction with that policy.

The following are guidelines on how to deal with specific instances of behaviour followed by scenarios that have already been experienced in Bumbles Day Care.

Coping with Aggression & Teaching Self-Control

Babies can sometimes do things that appear and feel aggressive (like grab our hair), but they do not yet have the thinking skills to act hurtfully on purpose. They are not able to control their feelings or use words to communicate their thoughts. Over time they learn right from wrong when you are clear and consistent with rules – consistency within a team is essential.

Starting at about 18 months, toddlers are learning that they are separate from their parents and are eager to act as independently as they can. But they have limited self-control and have not yet learned to wait, share and take turns. And while they are learning more words every day, they still rely heavily on their actions to communicate. When they are angry, tired, frustrated or overwhelmed, they may hit, push, slap, grab, kick or bite to tell you I’m mad, or I’m exhausted, or I’m over my limit and need a break.

Listen to a child’s reaction, the more you listen the easier it becomes to read them and predict how children are going to react.

Ways to help the young child develop self-control and rely on less aggressive behaviours to communicate needs and feelings.

  • Birth to 12months, set the limit in a clear and firm voice (without anger). Then re-direct baby’s attention. Pulling your hair, hold out a toy instead – offering an alternative is usually easier to distract.
  • Toddlers 12 months and up. When toddlers are aggressive, it usually means they are out of control and need help to calm down before any learning can take place,
  • Stay calm – The calmer you are the more quickly the child will calm down. Using a quite voice encourages them to be quiet as their natural inquisitiveness will mean they will want to hear what you are saying.
  • Recognise the child’s feeling or goal. Let the child know that you understand what they want to do. It’s okay to be mad, but not okay to hit as hitting hurts. Acknowledging their feelings is essential as it creates a base for everyone to move on from.

Sharing Toys

Sharing and turn taking are things we value as adults, but they are extremely vague concepts for children. Through their developmental lens, many pre-schoolers adhere to the philosophy “What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is mine!” This is why they say, “He’s not sharing!” or “she took my toy!” so frequently throughout the day. This can be an opportunity through coaching and teaching them a few simple phrases to help them develop problem solving and to effectively communicate verbally and move away from ‘unwanted’ behaviours.

One phrase that proves to be most successful and makes the most difference for children in social situations is “Can I have a turn when you have finished please?” When we coach a child with this phrase we communicate several key points that ease the process fort both children involved.

“I want a turn” empowers the child who is asking. It helps the child to know its OK to communicate wants & needs to others.

“You get to finish” – the magic ingredients is “when you are done/finished”. It communicates to the child in possession the no-one is trying to take it away or force them to share. It lets them feel a sense of control. The fight may not be about who has the object, but who has the power. Coach children through the phase and simply follow up with, “so Jimmy, when you are finished, find Debbie and make sure that she gets a turn next. OK?” The two should seamlessly swap soon, but if this is not happening, gauge the temperament of the children involved and the situation at hand. Keeping things light, say “well, there are lots of other things to do that are fun today, let’s go find something: whenever you are finished give it to Debbie, and we will do something else”

Timers may work for other children – How much time do you think you will need Jimmy? Help them come up with a reasonable amount of time, help them set the timer, let one of them hold it; be in charge (can make the fuzzy concept of time more concrete)

Use gestures along with words to communicate with toddlers. Use a calm firm (not angry) voice and at the same time use a stop or no-no gesture. You might say no hitting hurts as you take his hand and hold it by his side, firmly but not angrily.

Offer alternatives. Give the child acceptable ways to reach their goal. Throwing thins indoors offer a soft sponge ball for inside or take outside for ‘pitching’ practise. A child who throws is developing this skill, so offer an alternative.
Try a distraction. Ignore a child’s tantrum and instead do something he/she does not expect., point to a bird outside, start to read a favourite book of theirs, pick up an interesting toy and start to play with it. The bottom line is that young children want attention, and lots of it. When you ignore the tantrum, they tend to give it up much more quickly and accept one of the activities you are offering.

Suggest ways to manage strong emotions. When a child is really angry, suggest that he jump up and down, kick a ball, rip paper, cuddle with a teddy bear or use some other appropriate strategy. This teaches the child to express strong feelings in healthy, non hurtful ways. Know your child!

Help the child take a break. Some children calm more quickly when they can be by themselves in a safe, quiet place. This is not a punishment. It helps children learn to soothe themselves and regain control. When the child pulls him/herself together, tell them what a good job they have done calming his/herself down. – “you are not on thinking time, let’s just calm down first”.


Scenario 1: The tots are just waking up and a 16 month old boy has sat down beside a 17 month old girl who has then bit him on the hand. He has cried out but has not bitten back.

In Bumbles Day Care:

  • We would say a firm ‘no’ to the child who has done the biting.
  • The attention is then given to the child who has been bitten, that is, comfort is given; ice and/or arnica cream will be applied as required (keeping in mind to continue supervising the room).
  • The staff member will need to assess why the other child has bitten?
    • teething – teething gel can be provided
    • hunger – a healthy snack can be provided
    • impulse – Children under the age of 2 may need to sit in a highchair with some toys to occupy them for a short time. (This is not Thinking Time as they are too young to understand.) For children over the age of 2, ‘Thinking Time’ may be required and we encourage them to say sorry.
  • Staff will complete a biting incident record sheet to help them work out a possible reason for why the child is biting.
  • An accident form will be completed
  • The parents of the child who has been bitten will usually be informed by the Supervisor when they come to collect their child and will be asked to sign the accident/incident book. The Supervisor or Manager would contact the parents by phone if the skin was broken. This is a very rare occurrence.
  • The parents of the child who has done the biting will be informed and possible reasons and solutions will be discussed.

Scenario 2: A 23 month old child has really bonded with one member of staff but becomes very cross if another child goes too close to this person or if the member of staff has to do something else or leave the room.

In Bumbles Day Care:

  • We would use language such as ‘our grownups have to help all the children in Bumbles’
  • If a child is still settling into a room, the member of staff with whom they show a preference, may help with the settling in
  • Encourage the child to sit beside you rather than on your knee
  • If the member of staff needs to leave the room, reassure the child, telling them that you will be back very soon – always follow through with what you tell the child. This will hopefully build up trust
  • Other staff members in the room should try to engage with the child (especially in activities he/she clearly enjoys)
  • Always be consistent with your actions

Scenario 3: A Bumbilos child had been sitting in the book corner. Another child sat down beside them and the two children began to both pull on one a particular book. The pages were torn in a very short time and the book ruined.

In Bumbles Day Care:

  • We would approach the two children immediately and get down to their level
  • We would take the book from them and speak firmly that ‘We do not treat our books like this, this was one of our favourite stories and now we cannot read it anymore’
  • If the ripped pages are lying on the floor encourage the children to pick them up and place them in the bin as the book is now ruined
  • Next time we are reading a story we could talk to all the children about how we look after our books in Bumbles

Scenario 4: A 2 year old refusing to eat a dinner that they usually love and suddenly throw their plate on the floor.

In Bumbles Day Care:

  • We would recognise there is something wrong as he/she usually enjoys this lunch, therefore we would talk with the child to get to the bottom of the problem
  • We would show the child the mess and tell them in a calm but firm voice that we do not throw our food on the floor.
  • Maybe get the child to help clean up the mess – as this would be a consequence for their actions
  • After chatting with the child to sort out the problem offer them some more lunch.

Scenario 5: A Bumbleer (3 year old) was refusing to listen to a member of staff, had already had three tantrums that morning and proceeded to kick the member of staff hard on the shin.

In Bumbles Day Care:

  • We would tell the child that they have hurt you by kicking you and explain firmly that they should not kick anybody
  • If they are clearly frustrated with that particular member of staff, another member of staff may need to step in to calm the situation down
  • This member of staff should simply speak to the child asking what the problem is and letting them talk. This will hopefully help the child to calm down and see what they have done is unacceptable.
  • This child can have thinking time to allow them to think about why we should not kick other people
  • After thinking time talk with the child again about why we do not kick – reinforcing ‘our ‘grown ups’ are here to help us and we must not kick them’

Scenario 6: A group of 3 children had been playing together in the shop for a while (4 year olds). All of a sudden, one child said ‘I don’t want to play with you. You are not my friend. Only Child A is my friend and is coming to play at my house. You are not.’ The child who was being left out started to cry.

In Bumbles Day Care:

  • We would get the three children together and get down to their level and ask what’s wrong
  • Encourage the three children to talk through it themselves
  • We can say to the child – We are all friends together and we cannot leave anyone out. We also do not say things that will hurt our feelings.
  • We should point out that the other child is very upset (especially if they are crying)
  • Ask the child ‘how would you feel if somebody said those things to you?’
  • Encourage them to continue playing together or if the child prefers, join in with another group

Scenario 7: A 6 year old talking to a friend about another child and uses a racist term in earshot of the child they were talking about.

In Bumbles Day Care:

  • We would deal with this very seriously – Try to find out if the child is aware of what they have said (i.e. was it said with intent)
  • Explain to the child that this behaviour in unacceptable and why we will not allow it in Kids club.
  • Offer time out to this child to think about how they have/ or could have upset another child
  • Speak to the child’s parent so that they are aware and let them know how you dealt with the situation
  • Multicultural books, posters and games should always be available

Scenario 8: A small group of 7 to 9 year olds were playing a board game and another child was building. The 9 year old shouted and hit out angrily. It was unclear to staff what had caused the child to shout out but the child who shouted explained that the group were calling names and were trying to wreck the board game. This situation had occurred before.

In Bumbles Day Care:

  • We would speak to the children individually to get each side of the story
  • Then bring them together and let them try to sort out the problem with an adult close by
  • We will ask open ended questions
  • Especially with this age group we should always encourage the truth and remind them that telling lies will not sort out the problem

Please bear in mind that all incidents have to be dealt with to suit the child as an individual. What may work with one child may not suit another therefore we should always take this into consideration.