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Module D – Understanding behaviour

Module D – Understanding behaviour

(Links with modules A and F)
Below are optional activities for running this module. However, it's important to run activities and methods that best suit your ESYLs, ensuring you fulfil the aim and objectives of the modules.

During their time working with one of the younger sections, every ESYL will encounter a range of situations where they will be managing young people’s behaviour. They should promote positive behaviour in the Section, or they may need to respond to challenging situations; diffusing arguments, encouraging an individual to participate, or responding to a clingy young person, for example.


There are a number of reasons why young people behave in certain ways. The aim of this module is to give ESYLs a basic understanding of the different behaviours that young people can display and explores some of the potential reasons underpinning those behaviours. By the end, you should be able to recognise and propose possible strategies for dealing with different behaviours.


By the end of this module, you'll be able to:

  • understand different types of behaviour
  • understand and talk about the causes and triggers underpinning different types of behaviour
  • demonstrate a number of tools or methods that could be used to manage behaviour
  • explain how ESYLs can assist with managing behaviour in the section
  • explain where they can get further assistance, and when to involve adults


You'll need:

  • pens
  • Post-it notes
  • flipchart paper
  • games equipment
  • Appendix F
  • Appendix G
  • Appendix H

Begin the session by introducing the module and explaining what the aim and objectives are.

Make sure that you cover the following points in your introduction:

  • Every young person is an individual and all young people should be treated equally. They can display a range of behaviours that can be both positive and negative.
  • A sudden or noticeable change in behaviour may be due to a variety of underlying causes of which you might not be aware.
  • All volunteers should focus on recognising and rewarding positive behaviour, and should never label a young person or adult.
  • When speaking about behaviour in the section, volunteers should focus on the behaviour itself, rather than on the young person in question. For example, instead of saying that young person is being ‘naughty’, they could talk to the young person about their behaviour, clearly explaining why it's not appropriate.
  • Responding to challenging behaviour can be difficult for all leaders at times.

ESYLs need to be prepared with the confidence and skills to respond consistently and appropriately to varying behaviour within the section. To allow them to explore the possible challenges, you'll need to ask them to give examples. It's important that this discussion is held in a positive and safe environment in which young people feel able to ask questions honestly and openly.

(suitable for groups of any size, approx. 15 minutes)

  1. Explain that the group will be spending some time reflecting on their own experiences, before thinking about how they can support others. Hand out Appendix F.
  2. Ask the ESYLs:
  • How do you feel if you're having a bad day?
  • How do you feel when you're hungry?
  • How do you feel when you're tired?
  • How do you feel when you don’t understand something?
  • How do you feel when you're having a great day?
  • Is there anything that helps you function a little better when you're having a bad day?
  • What and who influences your mood?
  • What brings out the best in you?

3. Point out that everyone has good and bad days. Everyone is affected differently by different things, and everyone has their own sensitivities and triggers. However, there are some commonalities most of us share.

(suitable for groups of all sizes, approx. 15 minutes)

  1. Explain that there is always a reason behind challenging behaviour, and ask ESYLs to work together to think of as many different factors as possible. Examples could include: boredom, over-excitement, enthusiasm, a misunderstanding about what is appropriate behaviour, a misunderstanding understanding the rules, experiences outside of Scouting, experiencing a bad mental health day, and the environment (eg noisy, overwhelming, unfamiliar).
  2. Explain that challenging behaviour is often misjudged as ‘attention seeking’. Talk about why this kind of labelling is not helpful and can prove inaccurate. It’s natural to want and need attention from others, but usually this is sought in a positive way. It’s important to think about why a young person might be seeking attention. Are they receiving enough positive attention from adults? Is there something important they are struggling to communicate to you? Do they need support with developing friendships in the section?
  3. Ask the ESYLs to think what they could do to help prevent or turn these reasons around:
  • If someone is experiencing boredom, what can we do to ensure the programme is inclusive and interesting? How can we make sure everyone understands?
  • If someone is struggling to understand something, can we present the information in a different way? Can we have extra people on board to support? Can we check for any differences in how young people in the section learn, and adapt our leadership style to suit them?
  • If someone is over-excited, can we set clear boundaries before the activity begins? Can we make sure we have a code of conduct in place?

(suitable for bigger groups, approx. 20 minutes)
This activity helps ESYLs to reflect on how their behaviour and communication style may affect others.

Ask two ESYLs to volunteer to run a game for the whole group, whilst taking on a persona.

  1. The first ESYL should run a simple game with very long and drawn out instructions. They should keep going with the instructions until the rest of the ESYLs get bored, disengage and grow impatient or frustrated.
  2. Afterwards, ask the group how they felt. Did they feel themselves losing focus or getting
  3. The second ESYL should run a game, shouting and being very sharp with the others. Get them to imagine that they have had a bad day. How does it make them feel?
  4. Explain that leaders need to be confident, calm, consistent and in control. It’s not about volume or power, but about effectively combining body language and verbal communication skills to set clear expectations.
  5. Ask them how it felt to be shouted at. What does hearing adults shouting teach young people, considering that leaders are important role models? If shouting is used regularly, how effective will it be as a method of gaining attention in an emergency?

(suitable for groups of all sizes, approx. 15 minutes)

  1. Explain that the ESYLs are going to take part in a thought experiment, where they will try and turn a negative statement into a positive one. This experiment will help them to see the impact using positive language can have when working with young people. Often, it can prevent and de-escalate a challenging situation.
  2. Where possible, get ESYLs into groups based on the section they support, as the language used will depend on factors like age and level of understanding.
  3. Provide each ESYLs with the list of sentences in Appendix G. Ask them to take it in turns to reword the sentences using positive language. What effect does this have?

(suitable for bigger groups 20 minutes)

  1. This activity helps ESYLs to think about how they respond when faced with challenging behaviour.
  2. As a whole group, play a game of your choice. Throughout the game, ask some of the ESYLs or other adult leaders to start behaving in a way that is deliberately disruptive.
  3. The leader in charge of the game should use a variety of methods to deal with the disruption, ranging from shouting (as a bad example), asking them to not play the game, or focusing on the positive behaviour of others (as a more supportive method).
  4. Afterwards, have a discussion with the group about whether they believe the right methods were used and why. How did each approach make them feel? What would they have done differently? How do they think it would have been dealt with in their section?
  5. Next, split the group into small teams with pens and flipchart paper. Ask the ESYLs to come up with a list of ways to deal with different behaviours, looking at the pros and cons of each.

While the ESYLs complete the task, ask them to consider the following points:

  • Why is it important to reward positive behaviour in a balanced way?
  • How would you respond to challenging behaviour in your section?
  • What methods would you use to respond to both positive and disruptive behaviour?
  • What works? What doesn’t? Is there anything you would change or introduce?

(suitable for bigger groups, approx. 35 minutes)

  1. Give everyone a scenario from Appendix H, and set up a mock trial. Nominate a judge, two teams of lawyers representing the case for and against, and a jury.
  2. Give the lawyers five minutes to discuss their arguments. How will they explain the behaviour outlined in the scenario? When they’re ready, they should present their case to the judge and jury.
  3. Ask the lawyers to consider:
  • the possible reasons behind a young person’s behaviour
  • the triggers that may cause the behaviour
  • how the behaviour might be perceived by parents, leaders and members of the public
  • whether they will call upon witnesses to express different views
    4. Meanwhile, the judge should keep order in the courtroom, and the jury should listen attentively.
    5. Ask the jury to consider what the most appropriate method to respond to the behaviour is. Which preventative measures could be introduced in the future?
    6. Rotate the group so everyone has the chance to try different roles. If ESYLs are struggling to make their case or to come to a decision, you could include more witness testimonies.

What is my role as an ESYL in behaviour management?

Explain that ESYLs play a role in helping to create and foster a positive environment in their section. Scouting provides a space where young people can be themselves. They will undoubtedly come across challenging behaviour throughout their role, and it's important that they know how to deal with it. Setting expectations from the start will help to create a positive environment.

(suitable for groups of all sizes, approx. 20 minutes)

  1. Explain that one way ESYLs can provide a positive environment is by creating a Code of Conduct in partnership with their section. How can they ensure that everyone in the section buys into the agreement and understands exactly what it means?
  2. Explain that a Code of Conduct is not just a list of rules for young people to follow. It can include rules for the leadership team to follow, too. You could consider how the leadership team should respond if a young person is having a bad day, for example.
  3. In small groups, ask ESYLs to come up with some creative ideas to generate a Code of Conduct.
  4. Regroup and discuss the following points:
  • What is the ESYL’s role in managing behaviour?
  • When should an adult become involved?
  • How can the ESYL influence behaviour as a role model?

5. Create a central list or spider diagram of the group’s responses You can link back to the methods you currently use, as well as to any new methods ESYLs would like to introduce.
6. In small groups, ask ESYLs to list ways to recognise and reward positive behaviour and set standards. How can they introduce their ideas to the section? What are the advantages of focusing on positive behaviour instead of reacting to disruptive behaviour? When they’re finished, they should feed back to the wider group.

Conclusion of Module D

Summarise the module by revisiting the objectives. Ask the ESYLs whether they feel they have covered all of the objectives satisfactorily. Before they go, carry out a review or an evaluation of the session.