How to address your child’s challenging behaviours

Having routines, boundaries and consequences in place at home as your child approaches pre-school age can ensure their behaviour is consistent and make it easier for them to understand what is right and wrong.

As your child starts pre-school this will help them adjust to the new people and the new place they're in.  

When setting boundaries and consequences, it’s important that everyone caring for your child, whether this be grandparents, childminders or friends, are consistent with their approach, to avoid mixed messages and confusion for your child.

There are many challenging behaviours you might see in your child, below we discuss each one.

This is perfectly normal; your child may take a little while to adapt to their surroundings. 

Give them time. You might like to attend a few sessions with them, to reassure them about new people and the new place they are in.

Encourage small interactions such as taking a toy when it's offered or saying thank you, this will build their confidence when interacting.

Many children have become more shy since the Covid pandemic, support and reassure your child that they are safe and secure. 

Observe a child’s body language and facial expression to determine when they're feeling anxious. 

When you notice the signs, try to distract them with things they like to do.  

They may be too nervous to join in with others or to play a game, don’t pressure them, reassure and support them. 

Sometimes demonstrating and showing you're relaxed and having fun can help reduce their anxiety.

Confident children usually want to try new things and want to go first, they're not afraid to socialise, however they may be worried about not getting everything right and may dislike losing. 

Show them it’s OK to still be learning; do something silly like draw your picture wrong or miss out a number when counting, then be light hearted about it so they can see it’s OK to not get everything right.

You may see your child avoid joining in with others, don’t pressure them as this will make it feel more difficult and scarier. Instead, think about their favourite things to do and encourage doing those things. 

Ease them into interactions with others, they may need more time in new situations before wanting to participate or join in.

Active children that are indoors for long periods of time can start to become irritable and restless. Try to notice times in the day when they're most active and seek opportunities for them to be more physically active.

Go outdoors as much as possible, this has many benefits for your child’s mental health and helps an active child burn off their energy. 

When you’re indoors try doing things that involve lots of movement such as star jumps, particularly before starting an activity where your child will need to sit still, as this will help them to concentrate on it.

You may see your child lashing out when things don’t go their way and getting easily frustrated. 

If your child has tantrums, remember they’re still learning appropriate ways to express feelings. 

You could work on reducing your child’s stress, tuning into your child’s feelings and spotting your child’s tantrum triggers. 

Your child might be finding it difficult to communicate what they want or how they’re feeling and may need some support with their speech and language.