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Challenging Behaviour

Tuesday 14th November 2017

The Behaviour Challenge

One of the things we hear most from Leaders is that working with “challenging” behaviour is not only widespread, but often a cause of stress and frustration. Many of us can feel a sense of despair or failure when our strategies don’t seem to be working.

Few things are as personally challenging as working with a group of children or young people whose behaviour can seem out of our control. It can often appear to overshadow everything else that is going on at a BB night.

What is important for our own well-being and for the quality of the work we seek to deliver is to remember that we can learn from our experiences. We can develop skills and strategies to cope, and also to be self-aware enough to recognize when we are in danger of not coping, when we need support or a new way of seeing the situation.

The key skill, and often the turning point in the relationship with a child is to understand the reasons for the behaviour. This does two things:

- Enables the Leader to feel empowered to deal effectively with the behaviour, and

- Clarifies what is the best approach with an individual child.

This understanding also gives you the ability to detach from the emotions that the behaviour can make you feel, and focus instead on a structured response. This will help both the Leader and the child!

What Do We Mean by Challenging Behaviour?

The first step to gaining more skills in this area is to define what challenging behaviour means to you, bearing in mind that not all Leaders will find the same behaviour equally challenging. Think of a child or young person you work with – would you say that their behaviour was mild, moderate or extremely challenging to you?

What form does the behavior take? Is it:

- Disruptive

- Aggressive

- Violent

- Self-harming

- Refusing to cooperate?

Then ask yourself what impact does this behaviour have:

- On the child or young person him/herself?

- On other children and young people?

- On Leaders?

Understanding the Reasons

Now ask yourself what the reasons or causes could be.

Could it be:

- something that is distressing the young person, at home or at school?

- a diagnosed medical condition?

- a learned disrespect for boundaries or the rights of others?

- a programme that is boring or pitched too high or too low?

- a leader who is unconfident in their role or who is over-controlling?

It could be all or none of the above, and it may be that we never entirely understand the young person until a more trusting and sharing relationship has been built. However, whatever the causes, the solutions will vary. What is likely to happen though, as we attempt to deepen our understanding is that we alter our perspective. We begin to widen our focus from just the immediate impact of the behaviour, to an understanding of causes, or spark-points for individuals.

Every child deserves someone who believes in them. Be that one!

Coping with our own responses

So how do we cope with the stress that can build up? Finding meaningful and constructive ways to deal with challenging behaviour takes energy, patience and sometimes, creativity. None of these are accessible to us when we are close to “burn-out”.

It’s interesting how we sometimes react differently to the same behaviour we encounter each week. This suggests that our own inner resources are vital, and is another good reason for BB Leaders to look after themselves!

One of the ways to take a step back and share ideas and strategies is to come onto the BB course “Working with Challenging Behaviour”. There you can talk informally to colleagues and explore some tried and tested approaches to working positively with young people whose behaviour challenges us.

BB Training

Talk to your Captain or Battalion or District Training Convenor and ask for a “Working with Challenging Behaviour” course to be scheduled in. These courses offer practical techniques to use when attempting to improve behaviour. There are plenty of opportunities to learn about using strategies and, without promising a magic solution, this part of the course aims to increase a leader’s confidence and skill in working with young people in a style that reinforces better behaviour.

The key learning point is that the quality of attention we give to children and young people is powerful. Leaders can draw from a range of techniques, which used together, can produce amazing results.

The course will help by:

- changing the way that we understand and communicate with young people

- enabling us to create situations in which the child or young person can do well

- help Leaders to set up a token system to reinforce better behaviour and offer strategies for dealing with the inevitable “blow out” incidents.

Challenging behaviour is just a signal, the means by which a child is communicating that he or she is having difficulty meeting an expectation

And Finally…

There is one vital technique that ensures the renewal of our energies and the renewal of the relationships with young people that become strained. That technique is to practice forgiveness.

There are two important elements to it:

- Review the Company night when it has finished and everyone has gone. Go over in your mind the critical incidents, or your responses to any challenging behaviour. If possible, speak to a fellow Leader. In your heart, forgive the young person for their behaviour, and try to let go of any anger or disappointment you might feel.

- Forgive yourself for any mistakes you feel you have made in trying to manage a young person’s behaviour. Try and let go of any guilt or disappointment you may feel about your own resentful thoughts or a harsh tone of voice you used.

By practicing forgiveness and letting go of unhelpful feelings, you can come back to the next meeting renewed and refreshed. This way we have the potential to meet that young person again with positive expectations, and possibly be one of the few people who will have an impact on that young person and their behaviour.

Good luck. You are doing a GREAT job!

Karen Jay
Director of Children’s & Youth Work

Get in touch with Karen by email at karen.jay@boys-brigade.org.uk

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