Working with children can be very challenging and one of the most frustrating career choices out there (trust us). While it may test our patience on many occasions and may be the cause of premature balding, it is among the most rewarding things we could do and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. All the frustration just fades away when we can see the positive impact that we are having on the children’s lives. Through our experience, we realised that managing behaviour was one of the most challenging yet crucial aspects of child development. While this post is written in the context of child development, the principles can easily be applied to managing a workforce.
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways of managing behaviour. It involves rewarding good behaviour to evoke a positive feeling and creates an association between the good behaviour and this positive feeling. This association will mean that children will continue to behave well in pursuit of the good feelings. We realised that when dealing with children it is very easy to overlook good behaviour (seeing it as expected behaviour) and fixate on their bad behaviour by constantly yelling at them. When this happens, children will often adapt and get used to being shouted at, which means they will give the teacher/coach a deaf ear.
Compassion refers to the ability to understand the emotional state of another person with the desire to alleviate or reduce their suffering. Children (much like adults) respond to stress in different ways and it is important to show them compassion and not make assumption about their behaviour. For example, a child may behave in a disruptive or “naughty” manner because they are experiencing stress and are unable to cope with it. Always remember that your interaction with them is not their only interaction of the day and they may be reacting to something that you had not seen or weren’t aware of.
Carrying on from the previous point of compassion, it is important to create communication channels for the children so they feel like they are able to approach and speak to you about problems they may be facing. Don’t make assumptions about their behaviour! Talk to them and find out what they are going through. Children believe that they are more mature than they actually are – so give them a chance to have their say and genuinely listen because sometimes it may be you, the parent, coach or teacher that is wrong. Another important point to note when communicating with children is that you do NOT need to “dumb down” the information that you are sharing but instead, you should use examples and stories that they can relate to.
Punishment when required
It is not always possible to manage behaviour positively and sometimes punishment is unavoidable. During these situations, it is important to make sure the punishment is proportionate to their conduct and that you clearly communicate why they are being punished. Another important thing to consider when administering punishment is that it should be productive and should benefit the child. The best example of this is Coach Carter, who used fitness based drills as punishment and while this addressed the misconduct it also increased the fitness levels of the players and helped them improve as basketballers.
When managing behaviour, it’s important to remember that honey is way more effective than vinegar. Always speak to them nicely (honey) and try to understand the cause of the negative behaviour before deploying the ‘Vinegar’. Deploying vinegar builds fear and so while the children may avoid these behaviours, the fear will restrict them from reaching their full potential. On the other hand, honey creates a positive environment that drives them to work harder and continue to improve.
If you have any questions about this post, or anything that you feel is relevant, feel free to contact us and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.