Challenging Behaviour

Be on their side / build trusting relationships

  • A trusting relationship can be THE difference between a conversation and a positive outcome or a dangerous/ stressful situation.

  • Challenging situations are not a battle between adults and young people, remember you are all on the same team.

  • Take a moment to really see the situation from the young person’s point of view.

  • Accept responsibility when you have got it wrong; it will build respect and model an important skill for them.

  • If the situation is challenging for you it’s almost certainly challenging for them too.

Be a “Behaviour Detective”

Behaviour nearly always communicates an unmet need; if you can identify and meet the need, challenging behaviour will reduce. Is the behaviour exhibited showing a need to:

  • Escape a situation, person, place or activity?

  • Gain access to a person, place or activity?

  • Meet sensory needs?

  • Meet communication needs?

  • Meet physiological needs e.g. pain or hunger?

  • Meet emotional needs?

Be Clear About What is Acceptable

  • Is any behaviour which negatively impacts others acceptable?

  • Know that a behaviour might be understandable but not acceptable.

  • Identifying a behaviour as unacceptable does not mean it must be “punished”, you might be able to find an acceptable alternative. E.g. switch a noisy fidget for a quiet one.

Be Confident and Proactive

  • A clear and consistent response to challenging behaviour is essential.

  • Do not turn a blind eye for a “quiet life”.

  • No response, gives the message/suggests that this behaviour is acceptable.

Be Flexible

  • Offer choices wherever possible.

  • Challenge yourself to do things differently.

  • Develop a behaviour support plan (which should evolve over time).

  • Revisit and update the plan each time it fails; learn lessons and evolve it.

Be Consistent

  • Routines provide predictability which provides some security.

  • Clearly communicated rules aid consistency.

  • Respond to challenging behaviour across the school consistently.

  • Set clear expectations of what is acceptable behaviour.

Further Support and Resources

Unleash You Inner Superhero

Meic Griffiths, Executive Head at Imperium Federation in Greenwich, talks about approaches his team have used to reduce exclusion and improve behaviour, academic outcomes and wellbeing for all.

Wellbeing Connected


The wellbeing of staff, pupils and your wider school community is integral to positive behaviour. Wellbeing Connected provides lots of information about implementing a whole school approach to wellbeing.

Communication Needs

Symbols can support written and spoken language to aid communication and help reduce difficulties and frustrations which can lead to challenging behaviour.

Look, Think, Do provides a framework for helping learners with communication difficulties to better understand situations they find challenging and put in place clear steps to find positive outcomes.

Sensory and Motor Needs

Learning Through Movement provides practical tools to support sensory and motor needs for learning such as maintaining focus and self-regulation.

Multisensory Learning provides practical information and tools to help us better understand and meet learners' sensory needs which can support self-regulation and help reduce challenging behaviour.