Behaviour management

As a childminder I have my own policy document which clearly informs parents that, “I will NOT administer any physical punishment or other form of punishment that will cause any pain, discomfort, or other kind of humiliating or hurtful treatment to any child.”

All parents/carers need to establish reasonable limits and enforce them effectively. The first most important aspect in behaviour management is in setting realistic limits and goals according to the child’s age and their individual stage of development. Children all grow and develop differently and our own expectations should vary accordingly.

FACT – though the word discipline is directly associated with structure, rules and punishment for unacceptable behaviour, by definition the word discipline comes from the Latin word for “teaching”.

Personally I would like to think that I am disciplining my son using the Latin understanding. My main aim over the next few years is to help teach Joshua the concept of right and wrong, hopefully through my own daily actions and words. However, at present my priority is in setting reasonable limits to mainly protect him from hurting himself. I concentrate on “no” for those times when I really want him to stop (eg because it’s dangerous for him), and if “no” fails to get any response with Joshua, I would then say “no” again whilst removing him from the situation and distracting him with a toy. However if it’s just because I don’t want him to do something (eg. chewing or playing with something he shouldn’t) I would try to distract him first, as I feel sure that too many “no’s” soon lose their effectiveness, especially at such a young age.

Checklist for positive discipline

Building self esteem

Shaming, humiliating and smacking can often lead to worse behavior and repeatedly telling a child that they are naughty must surely damage their self esteem. (Criticise actions not the child) and remember a child who feels valued is much more likely to behave in an acceptable manner.


Saying no and meaning no. All children need to know where they stand and it helps if they know as adults we mean what we say, otherwise this can be extremely confusing to a child. Always try to be consistent from one day to the next otherwise the only thing you child will learn is that rules and limitations are meaningless. I found this particularly difficult with joshua, as it is very difficult to say and mean no when he smiles and giggles adoringly back at me. I do feel that by trying to set some limits now I will at least be consistent, and as he grows up the limits will be hopefully be met with more compliance and ease.


Telling off and orders such as, “Do as you’re told,” “Behave yourself,” or, “Stop being so naughty,” teaches nothing for next time. Whereas simply explaining why they should or should not by doing something teaches valuable lessons and information (eg. It’s dangerous and you will get hurt or Its impolite and you will upset someone etc). These explanations should be given continuously whether it is the first, third or what seems like the hundredth time, as eventually it will sink in and be accepted.


Always try to offer an alternative (eg. “No you can’t play with daddy’s computer books – but you can go and pick out any one of your own books” and “No you can’t go out and play with your friend tonight – but you can tomorrow providing we organise it properly with their parents.”) This emphasises the positive and also helps to teach about the value of compromise.

Recognising and rewarding good behaviour

Rewarding good and sensible behaviour is constructive, it encourages further effort and discipline. Also if a child is given attention and praise through good behaviour they are much less likely to seek attention by being mischievous.

The need for punishment!

I tend to use time out for more serious misbehavour (especially useful for school age children) as it allows them time to cool off and think about why they are sat at the bottom of my stairs on their own. I don’t use time out before ever I attempt to discuss explanation and alternative. However where appropriate (especially with preschool children) I try to link any punishment with the misbehaviour. Immediate linked punishment is very effective as it helps the child to associate the misbehaviour as being wrong. I always give at least one polite warning as to the consequences as it allows for obedience and Praise. I have found both to be a particularly useful form of discipline and hopefully by providing a stable well managed environment for children, they are learning to live with limits, which as they grow up will help them to develop skills which will help them be accepted and welcomed into todays society.

Each child, family and situation is different and although this is my own approach to discipline, everyone has there own views, opinions and strategies. However I do hope that this article has been of interest to all who have read it, and even if you are thinking “I do it my way and that works fine, Thank you very much” at least it has made you think over this very important aspect of child rearing.

by Marie Bunney. August 1999. Marie Bunney is a registered childminder and has also worked at a local pre-school.

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