Note: This is a Legacy Copy of this Publication. Supporting Young Children’s Behaviour Skills

Barnardos. (2016). Supporting Young Children’s Behaviour Skills.
Children naturally learn about the world through play and, as they mimic the world around them, they develop an understanding of everyday life. Through play they keep house, run shops, drive cars and then move to fantasy worlds, sometimes even with superhero powers. Humans are social creatures and, by preschool age, children are eager to play with others, and thus begin to learn early friendship skills. Playing and interacting with others, however, involves complex processes such as sharing, cooperation and negotiation, all of which can elicit powerful emotions. Friendships are rewarding, but playing with someone of a similar age can be much harder than playing alone or with an older child or an adult – it requires communicating, sharing and cooperating. Tantrums, blow-ups and/or meltdowns are common in young children. Regulating emotions is very challenging for young children. Emotions can take over and shift in an instant. Preschool-age children are only starting to develop empathy for others and are egocentric about most things and generally they want their own way. When children are not able to compromise, frustration, jealousy, anger and disappointment may be displayed and it can be challenging for adults to respond appropriately to their behaviour. The early years is a critical period for all learning, in particular social-emotional learning, and early years educators play a central role coaching and supporting children to develop the skills required to understand and manage their emotions and be accepted by and play well with their peers. Emotional and social development occurs across all stages of childhood and children are learning from birth. This publication focuses mainly on preschool-age children (3–4 years), but every experience for the child up to attending an early years setting has impacted on the child’s social and emotional development. Social-emotional skills are as important as cognitive skills for learning and development. Children with friendship skills, who are good at understanding their own and others’ emotions, who can self-regulate when needed and who are able to solve social problems do much better in primary school as well as in their everyday lives than children who have not developed these socialemotional skills. By having fewer behavioural issues they will find it easier to make friends and be more content in school. It is essential to remember that being a young child is just as important as being older and to recognise the early years as a stage in life that is as worthy of value as any other life stage. Early years educators can, nevertheless, help young children to prepare for their next stage of development by supporting their social and emotional development and guiding their behaviour skills, giving them a solid foundation on which to realise their full potential.