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Advice on behaviour management desperately needed!


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Hi everyone, I'm in the habit of only posting on this forum when I need help - which is not good, so I apologise in advance!


I'm currently working in a 60 place primary school nursery split over two sessions each day. There are three members of staff - myself, a recently qualified teacher (2nd year of teaching), a level 3 TA and a level 2 apprentice.


It's no secret that we are struggling with the behaviour of a number of very disruptive children in our morning session - which has been observed by senior teachers in school, including the deputy head. Until now I've not experienced such a level of challenging children in one intake (we're talking about 6 or 7 children with a range of behavioural issues ranging from general disobedience to full on physical aggression towards staff and other children).


I have to say that this is beginning to take its toll on us all and pushing up stress levels in the setting no end. Whilst I get on well with my colleagues I don't always feel totally supported by them - which is most likely due to my lack of management ability, I freely admit! I feel that I have to generate all of the planning ideas myself, all of the behaviour management strategies and deal with all of the general day-to-day nursery management issues single-handedly.


Yesterday, following a typically difficult week, I was dealt a massive blow to my confidence. As it transpires several members of staff had gone to the deputy head to raise concerns about how I dealt with a child who had made an attempt to 'escape' from the nursery. I admit that I was very firm with him and did raise my voice significantly, but I genuinely feel that this child requires that level of firmness once in a while due to his behaviour. The child was not upset by this, but demonstrated that he understood by following my instructions. Perhaps people disagree with me - I suppose that's my main reason for posting this! I need another perspective, because I'm seriously doubting my professional abilities right now (a legacy from a HORRIBLE teaching practice I once had).


I have concerns that this may be the tip of the iceburg, since as a male teacher in an early years setting, I already feel that my practice is well scrutinised. I always make an effort to be accountable, not to mention visible to other staff. My voice is louder that a female's - that's anatomy - but is there ever a good time to raise your voice at a three year old, or does it simply show a lack of control by an adult?


I'm getting a lot off my chest here, hence this post dragging on, but the crux is this: what behaviour management techniches work in your setting?


I'm upset that I am coming across as someone who is 'mean' to children and would value anyone's input on ways to deal with thi situation. I have always enjoyed being really positive about the children in my care, but positive praise and reward stategies I'm using seem to have little effect.


Thanks for reading this far, and thank you in advance for any advice you may be able to offer. :1b

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I think as a professional that raised voices do seem to be not allowed and we do avoid them.


However, as a parent, I think I feel differently. I had three children under five at one point and I did shout at them but only in extreme circumstances. That has not resulted in them being any less confident or able than anyone could expect them to be as now teenagers.

I think that children who never meet a raised voice are handicapped in many group situations. They are the ones that are devastated higher up the school when the discipline becomes more forceful. My children used to come home and say the teacher shouted but no worse than you, mum. They understood that there was an issue but dealt with it sensibly.


Then there is the point that many children probably feel that you only show that a situation is serious by raising your voice. That probably isn't the perfect world but it is the one we live in and you won't change that without changing all the parents as well.


I would be more worried about you competence if you we're not questioning yourself. We all do that!


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we have a very challenging child at the moment and several who are less so than the one I am thinking about but still a challenge none the less so so I empathize completely.


Professionally yes shouting is not something that is normally seen as good practice I think it is supposed to be lower firm tones so that we always look like we are in complete control, however if there was a question of safety involved I would think it is arguably preferable to have someone shout and prevent harm than not.


It seems though that the shouting is just one issue and actually the crux of it is not the shouting but the fact that staff went above you to speak to the head. Did they raise the issue with you first? maybe there is something that could be improved in communication here? ( speaking from experience here myself this term!!) I would think that if they don't agree with how you handled it ask them for ideas on how to manage the behaviour you have, you are a team so therefore they could come up with ideas themselves rather than just moan they don't like it when you do.


what is your behaviour policy?


we use a variety of techniques from distraction, working out the triggers so they can be avoided, calm down time, modelling and so on but I am sure you probable use all that!


hope you get it sorted

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just had another thought we had a lot of success working with children who couldn't focus/concentrate very well and some that were disruptive and didn't know their own strength so would hurt others in over boisterous play using Jabadao. Physical exercise programme that has very positive benefits across the board. if you google it you can find their website with all their research etc.. on it.

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Hi Wolfrenshew (Sorry about the long reply but I do hope it helps)

firstly sending you a big virtual smile and a message of 'don't worry you are not alone'! We all have days when we say or do something in a way that, when we look back think 'I could have handled that much better'. It is this reflection and acknowledgement (and subsequently, ability to change) that makes the good practitioners even better.


We too are feeling the strain of behaviour issues within this years co-hort (not to mention the usual pickles you get in any year group). Each new year we think gosh they are challenging this year, and it really does seem so. We have 3 boys in particular in one nursery session that are presenting with needs that we feel we can hardly meet due to trying to settle other children. 2 boys appear to present with spectrum difficulties (one of which the parents have already referred him). For him we have talked over with parents and they have agreed to two things -

1. Short sessions for now - he does 1.5 hours building up gradually

2. Mum to stay with him to help him adjust - to be honest we could not do this without mum as his needs are of the 1-1 level and we simply would not be able to provide that with the ratio of 1:13 - plus trying to calm and settle other children.


The other wee lad is similar but he is able to cope with mornings and lunch then goes home at 12.30. This one was harder to negotiate as mum was less happy about this but we talked through the importance of giving her child the best positive start and this would not happen if he was always in conflict with other children.


The third child is extremely aggressive and we have had a very long and in depth conversation with mum about behaviour and next week have asked dad (they split up a while ago) to also come in and have a chat with us and mum about the way forward so that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. I think mum has admitted that there are very mixed signals at home and she finds it difficult to cope. This child's hours are for a short morning until 11.00 with a view to building up as he settles. Mum booked herself onto an English course in the afternoons and while we do not want her to miss out on this opportunity we have had to stress that without this emotionally and socially settled start it will be very difficult for her child to settle (not to mention the safety of other children and staff!)


So the message is for these 3, working with the parents after careful consideration and a chat with the head, their hours will be shorter for now until they are able to cope with a longer session- is this something that you can do?

We also work with the local children's centre whose family support worker delivers a Triple P program for parents in our setting. A lot of leg work to organise but worth it if it helps parents with problems at home.


You asked about behaviour management - we are implementing High Scopes 6 Steps to Conflict Resolution (you can find out more about it here )


register for free and you will be able to view video clips of this in action. The clips are a little dated but the message is very clear.


In a nutshell the steps are

(1) Approach calmly, stopping any hurtful actions

(2) Acknowledge children's feelings

(3) Gather information

(4) Restate the problem

(5) Ask for ideas for solutions and choose one together

and (6) Be prepared to give follow-up support.


I also like their approach to encouragement rather than praise. If you are interested in further reading I recommend this book as an easy read to High Scope in action.



We have had two staff meetings about this approach and an opportunity to share ideas and watch the video clips. All students working with us will be shown and given info on the approach. We have made some little keyring cards to help us remember the steps and also given lunch-time supervisors the same training so the approach is consistent. The other thing we are doing is putting a leaflet together to share with parents so they too understand where we are coming from.


It does take a little longer to support younger children with solving conflict but we are seeing benefits and as we are all doing this the children are beginning to see the benefit - don't get me wrong but we can see a glimmer of hope! Another benefit is that it really does encourage the children to problem solve and think for themselves. However, some children do need support for ideas to solve problems but instead of saying "well why don't you have the car first and you have it after" the high scope way is if the child cannot think of a solution the adult can say " I have and idea, would you like to hear my idea" then it is up to the child to decide.


Whatever approach we take we also have to bear in mind the developmental level and therefore the understanding level (including language - whether English or other) of the child. Some of the conflict resolution stuff we adapt for our very youngest of children. We have a wee one who is more like a toddler than a 3-4 year old and so we adapt the approach to suit his level of understanding.


I hope this long winded reply is of some use.. the weblinks at least. Best of luck and try not to beat yourself up about it. We are only human, are programmed to make mistakes but it is the quality of the reflective practitioner to admit that and do an even better job next time ;)


I don't know if you can open the attachment as it is a screen shot which goes into a little more detail about the 6 steps. let me know if you can't and I could probably send you it by email


Edited by apple
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Hi Wolfenshrew


Some great advice and nothing to add........except that as a mum and a nana - if you raising your voice/shouting stopped one of mine in their tracks I would be forever grateful to you.......


Don't beat yourself up about this - sounds like you are having an awful time already


Big hugs x

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Absolutely, don't beat yourself up about it! In all the years I've been working with children, I have to hold my hand up and say "yes, there are times when I have raised my voice and perhaps shouted" but it has never been in anger, not proper anger. I think that would be a signal that I had 'lost it'. It has been to stop an incident from a distance, to make a child 'start' perhaps, thinking of an incident recently when I saw a child going in to bite another one, from across the room, I shouted "xxxxxx. No!" And it stopped him. (Stopped everyone lose in the room too! I do feel that it's really important to keep a level voice as much as possible, and then those times when we do have to raise the bar a bit indicate that you really mean it.

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I was once kicked by a child with boots. Child knew what they were doing and did try to do it again. It was either change the tone of my voice or swear in pain. Everyone has a tone of voice when a child does something wrong. As long as you only do it when really needed what's the problem. Children have to have some measure of crossing the line and other children need to know that you will deal with it firmly and fairly.

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I'm sorry staff felt the need to talk to someone else. Maybe the answer is to talk to your staff in a staff meeting and talk about what needs to change with their input. That might help everyone feel more in control and they would also know how to support you and the children. That can some times be the reason why staff go to someone else because they don't know what to do to support. Before I had the meeting I would observe the room and children and look for any triggers. You could ask staff to do the same across a week. Children can sometimes come up with own ideas if asked. Involving everyone gives everyone ownership of what's happening after all behaviour support is down to all adults in the room and the children.

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"but I genuinely feel that this child requires that level of firmness once in a while due to his behaviour."

You are the one working with this child, so you are the one who knows how best to deal with any challenges.

I'm sure we've all had to raise our voice to a level we're not really comfortable with but if it gets the results we need, as in your case, then occasionally it can be justified.

The family who live next door to my late father-in-law, never speak to their children, they shout. We're there a lot lately and we're constantly amazed at the shouting, yelling and swearing that goes on. One of the results of this is the children dont really respond to any other way of speaking, another is the younger children dont really listen anymore and so the shouting just gets louder.

Its a sad fact that some families have poor parenting skills, as professionals we have to deal with things as best we can and find ways of changing the behaviour, at least in our environments.

My standard question to any challenging behaviour is 'do you do this at home?'. If the answer if yes I remind them they're not at home now, if the answer is no I ask them not to do it here either then.

If you were a rubbish teacher, or person for that matter, you wouldnt be questioning your actions and asking for advice. :1b :1b

Edited by Rea
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hi wolfenshaw , sorry to hear you feel the way you do even more so that men working in all female environments can get a raw deal sometimes and it's not easy. There is a difference between raising your voice and shouting - personally I agree with Rea , you know this child and felt it necessary to respond in the way you did. I do not like shouting but do at times raise my voice - mainly because i have a very loud voice naturally ( youngest of 10!) and due to the acoustics of hall sometimes it is the only way but not that i like to do it unless absolutely necessary. I do use other techniques - tambourine signals register and no verbal commands are needed and when i wish to gain children attention in a group - i sing the question' are we listening?' softly and repeat until all the children listen. My colleagues were a little unsure but have the confidence now to sing it too and it works.

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Hi there wolfenshaw, this is an issue that I have had at times too. I can remember being given a serious talking to about the loudness of my voice (it was a very difficult class) by an advisory teacher who within 5 minutes of working in small group with only one of the 7 disruptive children, was raising her voice and getting extremely cross. I smiled to myself about that one. I think the advice about having a cross voice without actually losing your temper is sound. As men our cross voices are always louder than women's and I have had conversations with staff about this. Sometimes we have to acknowledge that what we think is a raised voice comes across as shouting loud to others. ( I can remember thinking on more than one occasion 'obviously you have never heard someone really shout'.)

In the long run focussing on the positive behaviour you want rather than the negative (be kind and gentle rather than no hitting)staying calm but firm and consistently applying sanctions in line with your behaviour policy will pay more dividends. By all means be controlled in your use of voice and a loud STOP can often have an immediate effect but the longer I've taught the quieter I've become (mind you the children have also been better behaved) and so the occasional loud command seems to have more effect. I have met some professionals who think that shouting at children can never be justified and frankly I think they're wrong. What matters is you reflect on your style and use of voice and see what works best for the group of children you are teaching. Control is the key - if you are losing your temper and shouting then you really do have a problem. Hope this helps


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Poor you, I would be upset if I felt colleagues had gone over my head instead of discussing things with me :(


I do think that occasionally a raised voice is justified and can have a big impact, we really did try and use quiet voices where I worked and so when any adult raised their voice everyone always stopped and looked round.


The reception teacher who taught my son maintained such a quiet voice at all times that when we went to parents evenings you could hardly hear her but the children learned that they had to be quiet to listen but that is incredibly hard with a group with multiple disruptive children.


This recent article might give a few suggestions or at least a chance for you to reflect on what you do already do;


Twenty top tips for helping to develop self-discipline for positive behaviour management in young children


Good luck and hope things get better soon.....we need more men in early years and so don't want you looking to work with another age group :(

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