Children's Behaviour

Children’s Services, Colchester Hospital

Tel: 01206 286687


It is important to gain your child’s attention when talking to him or her, giving an instruction or reprimanding. 

This may involve: 

  • crouching down to their level 
  • using their name first, each time you say something (see below) 
  • turning their head towards you to gain eye contact 
  • quietening or holding them. 

Only give a short, clear instruction or reprimand. Keep it the same each time, for example: • “James, let’s put your toys in the box.” 

  • “Ella, no.” Look for positives and draw attention to them, such as: 
  • “James, well done, you shared your game with your sister.” 
  • “Ella, you tidied your toys away really well today, well done.

Consider what is rewarding for them, for example: stickers, stars, small toys, special games, time with you.

Work on one aspect of behaviour at a time and stick with it.

You may see ups and downs to start with but if you want to progress, you need to persevere.

Ensure anyone caring for your child is consistent in the agreed approach and what you expect on a daily basis from your child. Again… stick with it, even though it’s tough. Your child needs to know the boundaries and that they do not change or disappear over time.

If your child finds it difficult to concentrate for long, begin to increase their attention and concentration to tasks through activities they enjoy, so that they stick with the activity over a progressively longer period of time.

Cut down on distractions – loud music, computer games and television can be overstimulating to your child.

Make it a rule to keep the TV or music off during mealtimes and when your child is doing homework.

Whenever possible, avoid taking your child to places that may be too stimulating, for example, busy shopping centres.

Reward positive behaviour – offer kind words, hugs or small prizes for reaching goals in a timely manner or for wanted behaviours. Praise and reward efforts to pay attention.

Set small, reachable goals and aim for slow progress rather than instant results. Be sure your child understands that they can take small steps towards learning to control themselves.

Help your child stay ‘on task’. Use charts and checklists or visuals to track progress with homework or chores. Keep instructions brief and offer frequent, friendly reminders.

Help your child learn to make good decisions by giving only two or three options at a time.

Find activities at which your child can succeed. All children need to experience success to feel good about themselves.

Keep your child on a daily schedule. Try to establish a clear daily routine – keep the time that your child wakes up, eats, bathes, leaves for school and goes to bed the same each day.

This will help your child know what is expected over time.

Maybe include some responsibilities in the routine.

If your child is very active, maybe include a period of ‘high activity’ as part of the daily routine, if possible.

For children with attention and concentration difficulties: 

  • develop consistent routines at home and school 
  • keep rules clear and simple and give reminders calmly 
  • remember the child does not intend to be difficult 
  • attention-seeking means something 
  • try to understand what triggers behavioural responses 
  • listen to your child with your full attention 
  • check that your child is making eye contact before giving instructions 
  • supervise closely, as impulsiveness can place children in dangerous situations 
  • be positive about your child and continually look out for them being ‘good’ and praise them 
  • try to ignore minor irritating behaviour (pick your battles!!) 
  • provide clear disciplinary responses such as time out.


Parents must know a child’s capabilities before establishing expectations. Knowledge of child development will help any parent in setting realistic standards.

Children can listen and still not understand the words or ideas a parents is trying to communicate. When setting limits, parents need to allow children to re-state the requirements using their own words. This ‘check for understanding’ is critical to later enforcement. ‘Do you understand?’ won’t work.

Set rules that are necessary and important to the family. If a rule is made only because other people think it is important.

enforcing the rule will be difficult at best. Parents must set limits they can and are willing to enforce every time, no matter how inconvenient.

For the impulsive child (unpredictable needs, not hungry or tired at predictable times, mood changes suddenly) 


  • Separate meal time from eating time/ bedtime from sleep time 
  • Create routines, even if they are unusual, and be flexible. Say: (for example) “I know you are not hungry now. I’ll put your plate in the fridge and you can eat your meal when you are hungry.” 
  • “I know you are not sleepy now but it is time to be in your bedroom.

For the distractible child (trouble concentrating and paying attention, especially if not interested: doesn’t ‘listen”) 


  • Establish eye contact, by touch if necessary.
  • Reduce distractions, give short instructions.

Say: (for example) “I know it’s hard for you to pay attention.” “I need to see your eyes when I am talking to you.”

  • The Incredible Years – Webster Stratten 
  • 1,2,3 Magic – Mark Phelan 
  • The Explosive Child – Ross Green 
  • Raising Boys – Steve Biddulph 
  • Raising Girls – Steve Biddulph

To find out how to give us feedback on your visit or healthcare experience, please visit and search for ‘PALS’ or Your views matter’, or speak to a member of staff on the ward or department you are in.