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Developing children's positive behaviour in early learning

Last updated: February 3, 2024

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Learning to manage emotions and responses can be challenging for some young children. This factsheet will help you understand how you can work collaboratively with the educators at your child’s service to help your little one develop these skills.

Each child is unique and they each have different temperaments. Some children are active, others are quiet; some adapt easily to change while others react uneasily to change; some give clear signals to others about what they want and need while others find it difficult to communicate their needs with others.

There are many factors that contribute to children’s behaviour. Programs and routines, equipment and resources, the physical environment, interactions between children and between adults, how they rest and sleep, nutrition and medical conditions all affect the child’s behaviour at a service. While at home changes to the family environment, birth of a sibling or moving house can also have an effect.

Consistency in the behaviour guidance strategies used at the service and at home help the child’s learning and development.

Guiding every child's behaviour

Educators at your service will provide different levels of support to children of different ages. For example, a toddler who is not yet verbal and may bite others as a way of gaining some control over their environment will need a different level of understanding and support to that of an older child who demonstrates inconsiderate behaviour as they interrupt the play of others by continually knocking down their construction.

Each situation is seen as a ‘teachable moment’ where children can learn, develop empathy, understand the consequences of their behaviour and actions, and build their own strategies for responding to challenging situations. Each child has capacity to learn and develop the life-long skills of resilience, negotiation and problem solving, supported through positive relationships with educators and other children as they attend child care.

Developing positive relationships with children is the most powerful tool that educators have to guide children’s behaviour. The day to day interactions lay the foundations for developing the child’s self-esteem, positive attitudes, values and behaviour patterns.

In your service you should see educators:

  • displaying Early Childhood Australia’s Code of Ethics in their interactions with children and families.
  • providing children with strategies to make informed choices about their behaviours.
  • noticing and listening carefully to children’s concerns and discussing diverse perspectives on issues of inclusion and exclusion, and unfair behaviour.
  • designing play environments that are adequately equipped with resources and arranged to allow individual, small and large group activities.
  • being consistent and fair as they guide every child’s behaviour positively.
  • setting an example by being in control of their own behaviour, and positively managing their interactions with children, families and colleagues.
  • providing children with clear expectations and instructions for play, in a manner that every child understands.
  • managing noise levels during play and routine activities (such as meals) so that each child’s needs are accommodated as they play, eat and sleep or rest.
  • sensitively and actively inviting families to collaboratively develop strategies to support children’s behaviour in the service and the family home.

The national legislation informs providers and educators about quality interactions with children. Interactions should maintain the dignity and rights of each child and educators should give each child positive guidance and encouragement toward acceptable behaviour. At no time is it acceptable that educators or staff raise their voices, smack, humiliate or isolate the child for misbehaviour.

Working collaboratively with your child's educator

All services are required to have a policy about interactions with children, which guides how they provide opportunities for children to interact and develop respectful and positive relationships with each other and with staff members. The policy will be available to you and is a good starting point as you work collaboratively with educators to develop your child’s behaviour.

Collaboration with your child’s educator gives you:

  • support if you are struggling to improve your child’s behaviour
  • an opportunity to discuss the behaviour that is expected at the service and how any misbehaviour can be addressed
  • the opportunity to discuss the strategies that educators will use to respond to ongoing misbehaviour that disrupts a child’s opportunity to be an active member of the group

It is also important to ensure that all children are treated fairly and that they are supported to develop and practice their problem solving and negotiation skills and to interact positively with their peers.

Developing a shared understanding between families and educators about how children’s behaviour is managed is important. It helps create consistency in the behaviour guidance strategies used at the service and at home, making the child’s learning and development more effective. Children’s self-regulation will develop, and their positive involvement with their learning and development will increase. Both family life, and life at early childhood education and care will also improve, making everyone’s lives easier!

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