Managing Challenging Behaviour

Staff and volunteers who deliver sports activities to children or vulnerable adults may, on occasions, be required to deal with a child’s challenging behaviour. All comments made in relation to children and young people can equally be applied to vulnerable adults (provided that the appropriate specialist advice is taken).

These guidelines from the CPSU aim to promote good practice and to encourage a proactive response to supporting children to manage their behaviour. They suggest some strategies and sanctions which can be used and also identify unacceptable sanctions or interventions which must never be used by staff or volunteers. The guidelines will also include the views and suggestions of children.

These guidelines are based on the following principles

Planning Activities

Good Coaching practice requires planning sessions around a group as a whole but also involves taking into consideration the needs of each individual within that group. As part of session planning, coaches should consider whether any members of the group have presented in the past or are likely to present any difficulties in relation to the tasks involved, the other participants or the environment.

Where staff or volunteers identify potential risks, strategies to manage those risks should be agreed in advance of the session, event or activity. The planning should also identify the appropriate number of adults required to safely manage and support the session including being able to adequately respond to any challenging behaviour and to safeguard other members of the group and the staff or volunteers involved.

When children are identified as having additional needs or behaviours that are likely to require additional supervision, specialist expertise or support, this should be discussed with parents or carers and where appropriate young people. The club should seek to work in partnership with parents or carers, and where necessary external agencies, to ensure that a child or young person can be supported to participate safely.

Agreeing Acceptable and Unacceptable Behaviours

Staff, volunteers, children, young people and parents or carers should be involved in developing an agreed statement of what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour (code of conduct) and the range of sanctions which may be applied in response to unacceptable behaviour. This can be done at the start of the season, or in advance of a trip away.

Specimen Codes of conduct for young People, Parents, Coach etc can be found by selecting the following links:

Issues of behaviour and control should be regularly discussed with staff, volunteers, parents and children in the context of rights and responsibilities. When children are specifically asked, as a group, to draw up a code of conduct that will govern their participation in club activities, experience indicates that they tend to arrive at a very sensible and working set of "rules" with greater "buy-in" from participants than those simply imposed by adults within the club. If and when such a code is compiled, every member of the group can be asked to sign it, as can new members as they join.

Managing Challenging Behaviour

In responding to challenging behaviour the response should always be proportionate to the actions, be imposed as soon as is practicable and be fully explained to the child and their parents or carers. In dealing with children who display negative or challenging behaviours, staff and volunteers might consider the following options

The following should never be permitted as a means of managing a child’s behaviour:

Physical Intervention

The use of physical intervention should always be avoided unless it is absolutely necessary to prevent a child injuring themselves or others, or causing serious damage to property. All forms of physical intervention should form part of a broader approach to the management of challenging behaviour.

Physical contact to prevent something happening should always be the result of conscious decision-making and not a reaction. Before physically intervening, the member of staff or volunteer should ask themselves "is this the only option in order to manage the situation and ensure safety?" It is good practice to ensure that if you have to physically intervene in a situation with a child or young person, it is in the least restrictive way necessary to prevent them from getting hurt, and use only after all other strategies have been exhausted. Studies have shown that, where this is the case, children and young people understand and accept the reasons for the intervention.

The following must always be considered

Any physical intervention used should be recorded as soon as possible after the incident by the staff or volunteers involved using the Incident Report Form and passed to the Child Protection or Safeguarding Officer as soon as possible.

The View of the Child

It is clear from the accounts of children and young people that physical intervention provokes strong feelings. Children may be left physically or emotionally hurt. Even a child who hasn’t directly been involved in the situation may be fearful that it will happen to them in future or have been upset by seeing what has happened to others.

A timely debrief for staff and volunteers, the child and parents should always take place following an incident where physical intervention has been used. This should include ensuring that the physical and emotional well-being of those involved has been addressed and ongoing support offered where necessary.

Staff and volunteers, children and parents should be given an opportunity to talk about what happened in a calm and safe environment.

There should also be a discussion with the child and parents about the child’s needs and continued safe participation in the group or activity

It is important that staff and volunteers are made aware of and understand the organisation/ club’s guidance about managing challenging behaviour to ensure they are aware of ways in which they may need to intervene and are clear about the practice guidance in this area.

Summary: a policy for managing challenging behaviour

In conclusion all organisations that have a duty of care to children and young people should develop and implement a policy and procedures on managing challenging behaviour or consider incorporating this into their child protection policy. It should clearly set out the following

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