Content is loading...

Hide this page Easy read and translate

Managing difficult behaviour for newborns, toddlers and young children

  • 0-1 Years
  • 1-5 Years
  • 5-11 Years
  • SEND
  • Behaviour, emotions and mental health
A boy toddler holding his hand up to his mouth

It’s natural for children to display challenging behaviour sometimes. It is all part of growing up. But dealing with your child’s behaviour can be a stressful experience, especially if you’re tired. There are lots of things you can do to help ease the struggle for you and your child.


Set boundaries and rules

Try setting a few boundaries and rules for the whole family. Keep them simple and write them down somewhere they can be seen. The rules can change as needed, but pick no more than 4 rules at a time.

Be consistent

Be consistent in the boundaries you set. Your child can get confused if you react differently to similar situations. This means that everyone in your family should approach your child’s behaviour in the same way.

Offer praise and rewards

Try talking to your child about the rewards and consequences of their behaviour. All children will respond differently to rewards. So choose the right type of reward for your child.

Your positive attention can be the best prize for your child. So always try to point out to your child when they are behaving well.

Try to ignore unwanted behaviour where it is safe to do so. Distract your child with another activity and then praise their good behaviour.

Talk to your child

When your child is calm, explain to them why it’s not ok to behave that way. Try putting yourself in your child’s shoes. They may be behaving because they’re tired, hungry or bored etc. Support, listen and comfort your child. This shows them you love them and that their feelings are important. Even if your child can’t talk yet, they can still understand.

Challenging behaviour may be a sign that your child is unhappy, scared or worried about something. Help them find the words to describe their feelings. Find an activity where you can both feel calm, such as driving somewhere or going for a walk together. These can often be a great time to talk. 

Keep calm

Sometimes your child’s behaviour may make you feel stressed or angry. This can affect how you respond to them. Try to keep calm in these situations and move on as soon as possible. It's ok to walk away if your child is safe and return a few minutes later when you feel calmer. It may help to talk to your friends or family about your frustrations.

Do not hit or smack your child. Smacking does not have a lasting positive effect. It can frighten them and teach them that smacking is ok. It may also lead them to start hitting other children or adults. 


Need more specific support for your child?

If your child needs more help or has additional needs, you can visit our specific section for extra support.

Behaviour, emotions and mental health for additional needs

Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023

All of your child’s behaviour serves a purpose. So, it can help to try and figure out what the purpose is. 

Read more about understanding your child's behaviour

Young child sticking their tongue out with a cheeky smile

Who can help

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s behaviour, emotions or mental health, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support.

You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation.

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays).

Was this page helpful?

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

You must log in to save content

Click below to log in or create a new account


You must log in to save content

Click below to log in or create a new account