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How to respond to challenging behavior in early years by Shinobu

By March 23, 2020 No Comments

What are challenging behaviours? Children start expressing their strong emotions at an early age; however, they are often not able to use words to describe their emotions to others just yet. For this reason, behaviours such as hitting, pushing, kicking, biting, punching, etc. may emerge.

Here are some sample of what the behaviours might look like:

A child is having a great time with his favourite toys. It’s time to clean up, so he needs to put them away and a teacher helps him. He starts crying, screaming, and clinging onto her leg. Next, he takes her hand and walk her to a place where his favourite toys are. He is reminded that it’s time to clean up, then he starts biting and pinching her hand.

The child is showing his strong wish: “I want to play with the toys more! Give it to me!”

A child is reading a book. Another child wants to join in reading it. The child who starts reading it first pushes her away. She comes back to read the book, then he hits her.

  • He is expressing his need for possession, “mine! I want to read the book all by myself!”

When a child sees another child is crying, she crashes into the child.

  • She is expressing her curiosity, “Why are you crying?”

Each example shows different challenging behaviour and emotion associated to it. Children haven’t developed self-control skills or self soothing techniques yet, but they do have the ability to start cultivating empathy and understanding how others feel. As an educator/parents, we need to deal a situation properly and to respond quickly.


Here are tips how to respond to challenging behaviour.

  1. Understanding of the behaviour: Ask yourself where/when the behaviour happens. What happened before the behaviour? Did something trigger the child? Was there a recent change to the routine, environment, people, etc? Is the child going after a specific person or a group?
  1. Responding    
    Before doing anything calm yourself and try to understand where the feelings are coming from. Use simple words and gestures to communicate and attempt to redirect towards a more appropriate outlet.

Challenging behaviour is a part of child’s growth process and most children are going through this phase. To prevent a negative event is to help child understand his feelings. It’s ok to express your feeling to others which helps child learn how to deal with situations in positive way. We create safe and quiet place for children to calm down, which is to help children learn to soothe themselves and develop self-control skill. When you see progress of self-control, give them positive feedback, “you did a great job!” It gives children motivated to use positive behaviour again and to build their self-esteem as well.