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Children At Risk: Understanding and Responding to Children’s Behaviour (Part Three)

March 11, 2014



I am writing several blogs titled: Children At Risk: Understanding and Responding to Children’s Behaviour, and they are targeted at child caregivers and others who work directly with children, especially in the developing world.In previous blogs we looked at the importance of child caregivers needing to connect a child’s past experiences with feelings and resulting behavior, establishing strong boundaries and encouraging positive behaviour.


The six aims in understanding and responding to children’s behavior are:


Understanding why children misbehave (part one)

Establishing Strong Boundaries (part two)

Encouraging Positive Behaviour Building Strong and Trusting Relationships (part three)

Demonstrating Encouragement and AcceptanceDealing with Anger (part four)

Further to this important topic for caregivers is building strong relationships and demonstrating acceptance.Building Strong and Trusting Relationships


Trust is the foundation of all relationships. In the busyness of caring for many children and their basic needs, it is easy to forget that they have had their trust damaged, even destroyed. Many have been abused, abandoned and moved countless times in institutional care. Why should they trust adults? If we had limited cognitive understanding, and little input into decisions that greatly affect our life, would we? The children sadly perceive their world as dangerous and that adults will always fail them. This results in their need to remain in control in situations such as at school, in the home and living on the street. It outplays as aggression, disobedience and acting impulsively. To respond emphatically to any child, it is important to connect his/her past experiences, understand their feelings, and the consequences which is their behavior.It takes child caregivers extra time, energy and patience when caring for these children for their trust to be restored.


Strategies to Build Trust Include:


Ensure a consistent, trusted adult is available (priority for local long term staff)

Demonstrate warmth, acceptance, genuineness and respect

Have one/one quality time (often difficult, especially in a group setting such as an institution)

Positive interactions build trust, which improves behavior (home work, games, art)

Encourage sharing of problems

Give honest answers to children’s questions

Observe and listen to the child carefully

Keep promisesKeep confidentiality (if possible)

Be a positive role model Demonstrating Encouragement and Acceptance

All children need encouragement and acceptance, but especially children in crisis. Demonstrating genuine encouragement and acceptance builds trust!


Strategies could include:


Focusing on the child’s good points ( E.g. when saying please, helping with chores)

Speaking encouraging words often (E.g. thank you, you did a great job; I am so pleased that you helped the small child to dress).

Using encouraging words reinforces positive behaviourIn contrast, trying to ignore poor behaviour (if possible)

Encouragement and acceptance builds and maintains children’s self esteem, which is often lacking in children in care


If you find this and the other blogs on Understanding and Responding to Children’s Behaviour useful, you can purchase the 8 module National Training: Understanding and Responding to God’s Vulnerable Children training package from this website.


You can also register on www.janettepepall.com to make sure that you receive our regular, informative and thought provoking newslettersIn the next blog (part four) I will look at understanding and responding to children’s anger.

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