Self regulation and supporting children’s behaviour

The school aims to create a positive atmosphere based on shared values, where all members of the school, children, families and staff, feel valued and work together to achieve good relationships and high standards of behaviour.

We believe that…

  • We are all learners
  • All behaviour is a form of communication – children show us how they feel through their behaviour and will be supported appropriately
  • Children have the right to be heard and respected; therefore adults will respect and listen.
  • Children have the right to talk/ communicate about how they are feeling
  • Children need to feel safe and secure in order to learn effectively. They have the right to feel safe.
  • Children need to develop positive relationships with other children and adults.
  • Children need positive role models to learn from and co regulate with.

“Underpinning children’s personal development are the important attachments that shape their social world. Strong, warm and supportive relationships with adults enable children to learn how to understand their own feelings and those of others.” (EYFS Statutory Framework 2021)

Children’s behaviour often stems from their feelings and we try to understand the reason for a child’s behaviour in order to support their emotional and social needs.

We believe that children cannot be made to behave better by being made to feel less good about themselves, so we focus on their behaviour, not their personalities. Within a framework of children’s rights and our principle of listening to their concerns, we also know that children appreciate routines and positive expectations and feel safer when they know that adults are in charge of the situation and there to help resolve the situation.

We work with parents in order to share the rationale of our boundaries and expectations so that parents can support their child as necessary.

We aim to develop children’s self-control (self regulation ), as they learn appropriate levels of behaviour and help them manage their emotions. We support each child’s social development by empowering them to become assertive and confident by offering strategies to deal with others.

Managing unacceptable behaviour

We feel it is important to remember that a child who has “lost control” (disruption, throwing, swearing etc.) is demonstrating that they are not ok. They may be scared, hurt, confused, angry, anxious etc. It is important to confirm their feelings and let them know that it is your job to help.  As already detailed, this is to be achieved through positive interactions between child and adult, and through sharing and implementing our code of behaviour throughout the centre-with adults and children.

All staff agree that children need to feel safe; that reasonable boundaries on behaviour will be put in place. Children are expected to follow reasonable adult requests and to treat each other and property with respect.

We will seek external advice and support from the school educational psychologist and behaviour support team or other external agencies as necessary.

Positive behaviour we expect from children

· To treat other people kindly

· To respect other people –to share things with them and listen to them to treat resources and environment carefully

· To help each other

· To be as independent as their age and stage allows


Negative or dangerous behaviour we discourage

· Hurting each other verbally or physically

· Ignoring adults

· Interrupting other children’s play

· Misuse of resources and the environment

Further choices to support regulating behaviour

Young children find it difficult to express themselves and will often find it difficult to share and will become upset.  This is normal for most children at two years old or younger. This may mean a short spell away from other children and activities in the company of one adult. 

The child may need their key person to: 

  • Support them to co regulate their feelings and emotions
  • Distract them or by encouraging them to take part in another activity.
  • Give them an opportunity to spend time in a quieter space. This helps children to regulate their behaviour by being in a calming atmosphere which doesn’t offer too many stimuli. 

The child needs to know: 

  • That all behaviour will always be understood as communication, and supported by trusted adults.
  • The reasons why some behaviour is not acceptable, and why other communication is needed.
  • That the child is valued and listened to.
  • That adult help will be available to help the child make choices about managing feelings and actions in the future
  • That if the behaviour expresses strong feelings of anger or frustration, there is nothing wrong with the feelings themselves, only the way in which they were expressed.

Adults need to show a calm and empathetic approach to all, and later reflect on what has happened together, using a reflective practice tool. If there are serious concerns about the way a child’s behaviour is managed then a member of the SLT should be asked to support. An Incident form will be completed and shared with the parent.

Rough and tumble play and fantasy aggression

Young children often engage in play that has aggressive themes – such as superhero and weapon play; some children appear pre-occupied with these themes, but their behaviour is not necessarily a precursor to hurtful behaviour or bullying, although it may be inconsiderate at times and may need addressing using strategies as above.

We recognise that teasing and rough and tumble play are normal for young children and are acceptable within limits. We do not consider this play to be aggressive’.

We will develop strategies to contain play that are agreed with the children, and understood by them, with acceptable behavioural boundaries to ensure children are not hurt.

We recognise that fantasy play also contains many violently dramatic strategies – blowing up, shooting etc., and that themes often refer to ‘goodies and baddies’ and as such offer opportunities for us to explore concepts of right and wrong.

Staff will tune in to the content of the play and may suggest alternative strategies for heroes and heroines, making the most of ‘teachable moments’ to encourage empathy and lateral thinking to explore alternative scenarios and strategies for conflict resolution.

Hurtful behaviour

We take hurtful behaviour very seriously. Most children under the age of five will at some stage hurt or say something hurtful to another child, especially if their emotions are high at the time, but it is not helpful to label this behaviour as ‘bullying’. For children under five, hurtful behaviour is momentary, spontaneous and often without understanding of the feelings of the person whom they have hurt.

We recognise that young children behave in hurtful ways towards others because they have not yet developed the means to manage intense feelings, such as anger or fear which sometimes overwhelm them.

We will support the children with managing these feelings, as they have not always yet developed the means to do this for themselves.

We help this process by offering support, calming the child who is angry as well as the one who has been hurt by the behaviour.

We recognise that young children require help in understanding the range of feelings experienced. We help children recognise their feelings by naming them and helping children to express them, making a connection verbally between the event and the feeling. ‘Adam took your car, didn’t he, and you were enjoying playing with it. You didn’t like it when he took it, did you? It made you feel angry, didn’t it, and you hit him’.

We help young children learn to empathise with others, understanding that they have feelings too and that their actions impact on others’ feelings. ‘When you hit Adam, it hurt him and he didn’t like that and it made him cry’.

We help young children develop pro-social behaviour, such as resolving conflict over who has the toy. ‘I can see you are feeling better now and Adam isn’t crying any more. Let’s see if we can be friends and find another car, so you can both play with one.’