We recently posted about challenging behaviour on the blog, recognising the impact that it has on children and staff. We defined challenging behaviour as:

culturally abnormal behaviour(s) of such an intensity, frequency or duration that the physical safety of the person or others is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy, or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit use of, or result in the person being denied access to, ordinary community facilities.

The ‘good’ news regarding challenging behaviour is that there is ALWAYS a reason for it. At it’s core, challenging behaviour is simply a coping mechanism, a way for children to cope better with or attempt to control a difficult situation. It is likely that the child or young person is responding to uncomfortable thoughts, feelings or physical sensations. The reasons for challenging behaviours fall under the following categories:

  • medical reasons
  • sensory reasons
  • attention needs
  • tangible reasons
  • an means of escape or avoidance

It is essential that we explore all of these options when faced with challenging or unwanted behaviours. Is the child in some sort of pain or discomfort? Is the child struggling to cope with the level of noise in the hall? Is the young person trying to interact socially with others? Are they trying to communicate that they need something? Or are using their behaviour to escape something they are finding challenging?

All behaviour exists within a context which includes the young person, their family, their school, their community, and the wider world.

Children are much more likely to present with challenging behaviour if they are exposed to certain risk factors at a community level (for example, homelessness, rejecting relationships), family level (for example, family breakdown, or parental psychiatric illness) and there may be risk factors present within the child (for example, academic failure or a difficult temperament).

For more information on challenging behaviour, the reasons that children may present with challenging behaviour, and support to plan for positive behaviour change, take a look at our training programme written and delivered by Educational Psychologist Dr. Gary Lavan.