How should I respond to challenging behaviour during lockdown?

If you’re seeing more challenging behaviour from your children, you’re not alone. Lockdown has affected many of the routines children rely on to feel secure, so they may be more anxious than usual. You can help by agreeing new routines and sticking to clear and consistent rules.

Two boys doing homework, one boy getting annoyed

Decide on a routine together

The structure and familiarity of routines are calming for children in tough times. It helps them know what’s expected of them.

  • Work out a routine that fits around your family. If your children are old enough, get them involved.
  • Once you’ve got a schedule, everyone (kids, parents and carers) should agree to stick to it.
  • Pin it up so everyone knows what they’re doing. If it helps, make it colourful or interactive (using stickers or tick boxes, for instance.)
  • There’s no pressure to stick to a 9am-3pm school day. It’s perfectly OK if you or your child need more flexibility.
  • You can reduce the pressure of home schooling with a mix of learning and fun activities.

Have clear and consistent rules

  • Work out your house rules. If the children are school age, include them in deciding the rules and consequences.
  • Work as a team: ensure everyone understands and sticks to the rules.
  • Use tell, warn, act to back up the rules. Give your child a chance to get back on track rather than jumping straight to the consequence.

Reward positive behaviour

Set up a rewards system to encourage more of the behaviour you want to see. There are plenty of free or low-cost reward options:

  • Extra TV or outdoor play time.
  • Playing a favourite game.
  • Having a cinema day under the duvet.

Rewards like these also promote positive family time and shared experiences.

Give lots of praise

  • If you’re happy with your child’s behaviour, make sure they know it. Give lots of praise for everything that’s done well.
  • Give other adults in the house praise, too: it’s a great way to model what you want to see from your children.
  • Create a kindness chart together. It could be a ray of sunshine, a starry sky or a something that is important to you and your family.
  • Every time you notice someone being helpful or kind, you can add to your chart. It can be really encouraging, and highlights the little, lovely ways we all help each other.
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