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How to Tackle Behaviour as a Team in your Early Years Setting

If you want children to abide by your rules, you need to keep them consistent across your setting, says Sue Cowley…

  • How to Tackle Behaviour as a Team in your Early Years Setting

One of the most important factors in effective behaviour management is having a consistent approach across your whole team. This can be difficult to achieve, because people have their own ideas about what ‘good behaviour’ looks like and how best to go about getting it.

It’s important for children to be clear about what the ground rules are in your setting and to receive a consistent response from different staff members if they don’t follow those rules. This helps them feel safe and secure during their time with you.

The scenario

At a recent staff meeting, one of your practitioners complained about inconsistent responses to children’s behaviour.

The discussion got quite heated, with some people commenting that staff ‘let the children get away with’ being naughty and others complaining about the ‘old-fashioned methods’ used by other team members.

You want to establish a clear vision around behaviour and ensure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.

Creating clarity

If we want children to learn to behave well while in our care, they need to know what ‘behaving well’ looks like. We must communicate this to them so they understand, helping them learn why certain behaviours are welcome and others aren’t.

Consistency across your team is crucial – the last thing you want is to send mixed messages about what is and isn’t okay. To achieve clarity you need buy-in from the whole staff team. Ask yourself…

  1. Does everyone in your setting have a genuine chance to give input into your behaviour policy? How often do you revisit your policy to develop it?
  2. Do you have a clear set of guidelines for behaviour? Do all staff agree they are the correct ones?
  3. How do the children know what you expect – do you reinforce guidelines regularly, are they on display, do you send information home, etc?
  4. How often do you talk about the ‘why’ behind the behaviours you want – do the children know why you are asking them to behave like this?
  5. When a child is being difficult, do all staff know how to reflect on what their behaviour might be communicating and the adaptations that might need to be made for them?
  6. How do parents feel about behaviour in your setting, and how do you support them to use the most effective approaches at home?

Agree to disagree

There will always be differences of opinion around the subject of behaviour, and thinking on best practice has changed considerably over the last few decades. Some people seem to be ‘naturals’ at handling young children’s behaviour, while others find this aspect of their role challenging.

Give staff a chance to have an input into your policy, but once the team has agreed on their approach, make it clear that all must work to these expectations, for the benefit of the children.

For anyone who is really struggling, set targets to revisit at appraisal and offer additional training to support their personal development.

Achieving consistency

When tackling behaviour, what you are trying to do is create an invisible sign over the door to your setting that says, ‘This is how we do it here.’ To achieve this…

  • Work together to create an unambiguous agreement about the team’s vision for behaviour in your setting.
  • Talk to the children about what they think ‘good behaviour’ looks like, and take their ideas into consideration.
  • Check all staff understand why consistency is important and, if they don’t, keep revisiting this idea.
  • Where there is a difference in philosophy between practitioners, be clear that they must focus on the setting’s vision, not personal opinions.
  • Model the approach you expect, so staff can see what it looks like in action.
  • Make time for regular discussions about the best way forward with individual children.

Remember, being consistent doesn’t mean being inflexible or taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to behaviour. You can have consistent aims and standards but still find flexible ways of achieving them, ones that are responsive to the needs of each individual child.

Sue Cowley is an educational author and helps to run an ‘outstanding’ preschool.


Click here for more behaviour management advice articles for early years.

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