How can I promote positive behaviour in my section?
How can I promote positive behaviour in my section?
Positive behaviour needs to be planned for, modelled, taught and acknowledged; it does not happen by accident. Here are some top tips and some practical ideas you could use in your section.
Know the young people and parents/carers in your section
See each young person as an individual, find out about any disabilities or additional needs, and establish an open and positive relationship with parents or carers. This will help with insight into the cause of any behaviours and how to best respond.
Managing the transition between sections is important, so that a new young person coming into the section knows the leaders and other young people within the section and how the section works. Support from other young people in the section can be particularly valuable for a new young person so that they don’t feel alone or isolated. For example, support from their peer leader (eg. Sixer) or a ‘buddy’, who will in turn be working towards their Teamwork or Team Leader Challenge Award.
Good Programme planning
- Running a balanced high quality programme, that young people have been involved in planning, is a great basis.
- Include co-operative games and activities in your programme. Plan some games that require listening or silence to build on these skills.
- If you play knockout games, make sure young people who are out of the game are given something to do. Review the number of knockout games you use and check if it’s the same people who are always out first.
- With all games, including ones, which are familiar, go over the rules or instructions each time before you begin. Have a start signal i.e. ‘When I say go, you can start.’ If some people are not following the rules, stop the game and explain the rules again.
- When scoring, do it fairly not in your head so that things are open and honest.
- Think about how meetings and activities are structured. For example, if there is unstructured play, like football, when young people are arriving, this is more likely to lead to challenging behaviours or young people becoming more energetic. It can be useful to plan something for young people to do, while they’re waiting for the meeting to start.
Establish good routines and systems
- Have a routine for meetings. Start and finish ‘formally’ and set expectations of what is required from young people, adults and parents/carers at that particular meeting. Use similar routines each time for explanations. For instance, everyone sitting down in small groupings. Ensure that everyone understands the purpose of these i.e. to move on to the activity/game as soon as possible.
- Use signals so that you do not need to use your voice all the time. For example, hand in the air means stop talking and pay attention. When the young people see a leader raise their hand they stop what they are doing (movement and noise) and put their hand up too. This then spreads across the section. It is important that the leader stands still and is quiet while their hand is raised (demonstrating the expected behaviour) and that any other leaders in the room are also quiet at this time, reinforcing the expected behaviour.
- A red, amber and green card system could be used. This is usually when a young person is causing danger or has hurt someone - 5 minutes to go and think about what they did, and then a talk with a leader about what happened. If behaviour improves, show the green card.
Here are some good tips in running activities, to encourage positive behaviour:
- Before starting to explain activities and games make sure you have everyone’s attention.
- Stop if someone interrupts or starts to chatter to their neighbour. When someone is talking, others (including other adults) should be silent. Keep explanations and demonstrations short and to the point and use bite size statements.
- Ensure the young people know why you are asking them to do a particular thing.
- If doing an activity that can be explained in two stages, such as crafts, let them start and pause to explain the next step.
- Give notice, like counting down from five to zero. The leader can hold their hand out in front and start counting down from five, folding fingers down with the countdown. Finish with a statement along the lines of, ‘And you are now quiet and listening’. Or alternatively use an egg timer with an alarm.
- Check if everyone has understood the instructions before beginning the activity.
Set the standards with the young people
Challenging behaviour can mean different things to different people, therefore it is important that acceptable standards are created and agreed, and that everyone knows what behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable.
Actively involve young people in creating a Code of Behaviour for the section. Young people are more likely to remember and stick to something that they themselves have played a part in creating.
In preparation, it is useful for the leadership team to have a rough idea of the essential things that need to be included, to ensure health, wellbeing and safety. Talking about the Promise or the Scout Law is a great place to start discussions with the section.
It is important that the Code of Behaviour becomes a ‘living’ document that is reviewed regularly and referred back to positively in praise and reward, as well as in responding to challenging behaviour.
The start of each new term might be a good time to revisit it, and when new people start, get the young people to show them the Code of Behaviour so they know what is expected rather than hoping they will pick it up. Don’t forget to let parents/carers know as well.
Tips for an effective Code of Behaviour are as follows:
- Created in partnership with young people.
- Agreed and ‘owned’ by the young people together with the leadership team.
- Doesn’t contain too many rules.
- Worded positively, rather than being a long list of ‘do not’s.’ For example, “we listen to each other” rather than “we will not interrupt when someone else is talking”.
- Language used is appropriate to the level of understanding of the young people.
- Relevant to all circumstances – e.g. camps, trips.
- Follows the Yellow Card and reflects the Values of Scouting.
- Effectively communicated to everyone, including new Members and parents/carers (for at least Beaver, Cub and Scout sections).
- Followed by the adult leadership team at all times.
- Displayed clearly within the meeting place and referred back to.
- Reviewed regularly.
It is also important that appropriate behaviour is discussed before events such as nights away and trips, where there may be additional boundaries needed. It should be assumed that young people know what is expected of them and what is not appropriate.
Remember, one size doesn’t always fit all, and as part of making reasonable adjustments for young people with additional needs, a separate plan may be needed to manage any challenging behaviour.
Agree on a plan if standards are not met
All leaders will at some point experience occasions when behaviour will affect the smooth running of a meeting or event, so it is important to plan ways of managing that behaviour in advance.
Leaders should agree with the young people and as a leadership team, what the boundaries of behaviour are and what the consequences will be. Consequences should focus on learning and development, rather than punishment, and what is appropriate will vary depending on the behaviour itself and the circumstances. It is important that everyone involved, including the young people, leadership team, and parent or carers, is aware of the consequences of breaking the Code of Behaviour.
For young people with additional needs, other young people in the section may need support in understanding their difficulties and any different ways that the leadership team are managing their behaviour. It’s good for leadership teams to discuss behaviour in the section regularly so that everyone is consistent in their approach, and adding it to the agenda for leadership meetings can act as a good reminder.
Any behaviour that represents a serious threat to the welfare of others should be reported, following the guidance on the Yellow Card.
Use positive language and communication
- Be assertive in your communication. To get the attention of your section learn to project your voice so that everyone can hear, but do not shout - speaking quietly will eventually get them to be quiet and listen. Once you have their attention, they have to try harder to listen. Where necessary, speak firmly without shouting. Use a whistle sparingly if at all.
- When talking about challenging behaviour, focus on the behaviour itself not the young person, to avoid negative labelling.
- Allow young people to speak without interruption and listen to what they are saying is one way to gain their respect.
- When young people are engaged in an activity do not expect an instant response - with many young people it takes a period of time for them to register and process an instruction, or even that you are speaking. It can be beneficial for you to make the request, stop and silently count to six and then repeat the same statement or instruction.
Offer praise and recognition
Praising and rewarding appropriate behaviour is more effective in the long term, than focusing on inappropriate behaviour. Get into the practise of providing age-appropriate encouragement and praise.
Fostering a culture of praise and not blame has shown time and time again to encourage good behaviour. Praise young people for doing the right thing rather than criticising those doing the wrong thing. ‘Thank you’ and ‘well done’ need to be heard and meant when talking to young people and between leaders too.
Devise ways of recognising achievement. An appropriate points system with, for instance, a round of applause for the group with the most points at the end of the night, and a small prize at the end of term for the winning team. You can also be use things like certificates to reward those that arrive on time, remember their necker, or any other single aspect of behaviour you want to highlight?
You could have a ‘Scout of the month’ award that can be given according to whatever focus of behaviour, e.g. attendance, is required. The method of reward could include a trophy to look after for the month, the presentation of a certificate and/or their names put into a hat which form a draw at the end of the year with the opportunity to win a sum of money which can go towards buying something useful for Scouting.
Lead by example
Remember you are an influential role model for young people. One essential principle of promoting positive behaviour is to lead by example. For instance, if leaders shout, young people will often become louder. Older Scouts and Explorers may have the attitude ‘If leaders don't stick to the rules then why should I’?
What messages do your adults give out? Do they stop and listen when instructions are being given out? How do they model ‘good’ behaviour? Do they recognise and acknowledge good behaviour as well as pick up on poor examples? Adult behaviour can sometimes be the catalyst for undesirable behaviour in young people. Think about how the adults are interacting and behaving around young people can be beneficial. If you identify issues and address them you may find that behaviour in your section improves.
Examples to address could include:
- Are adults on their mobile phones when young people have been told not to be, creating one rule for one and one rule for another
- Interrupting when someone else is talking, distracting either young people or adults while instructions are given out