I spend a large part of my job supporting staff in developing strategies to manage challenging behaviour in children. I also spend a significant amount of time supporting senior staff in managing challenging behaviour from other staff members. In my experience, although the behaviour may differ, challenging children and challenging staff have a lot in common. The vast majority of people do not choose to present difficult behaviour, and in the same way as children are communicating through their behaviour so are adults. When children are challenging adults, refusing to do things and being difficult, they are often feelings scared and anxious, and when adults show similar behaviour, the feelings are often the same. So, how can we respond to adults and create a positive working environment, especially when some of the staff may display difficult behaviour?
The importance of a positive working environment can not be underestimated. Ensuring people feel they belong and are needed and valued, along with dealing with negativity, blame and gossip so that people feel happy and experience job satisfaction is crucial to an effective workforce. The quality of the relationships between staff impacts on their ability to work together effectively and to create an emotionally safe environment for the children. The relationship between staff needs to incorporate open and honest communication along with mutual respect and appreciation. This can be demonstrated in front of the children so they are able to experience the positive impact of relating to other people in this way. If the relationship between staff is one of mistrust, resentment and animosity then this may be witnessed by the children through verbal and non-verbal interactions which can result in them becoming anxious and their behaviour changing.
It is essential that staff look after and support each other’s emotional well-being and are able to identify positive ways to manage their stress. If staff are feeling fragile, stressed or vulnerable, this can impact on their ability to develop and maintain relationships with the children.
The experience of high quality inspirational training is of paramount importance for all staff and opportunities to access additional training relevant to their role needs to be available to everyone. Good training can impact on the whole team by motivating individual staff and by providing opportunities to share good practice, encourage new ideas and initiatives.
The staff need to feel valued and supported in their work in order to be productive, and the morale of the staff can impact on the children in a positive or negative way. All adults have a responsibility to create a happy and relaxed atmosphere for children, or to decide what they can do to change it. Working in schools can be a demanding and exhausting but rewarding and enjoyable job. In order for staff to work most effectively and give their best to the children they need to feel happy, supported and fulfilled. It is important they feel they are making a difference and that they are an essential cog in the wheel of school life. The setting needs to be emotionally safe for staff in order to be emotionally safe for children.
In order for the setting to be most successful it is crucial to nurture, support and empower the staff in the same way as you do the children. When staff feel valued and happy there is less likely to be conflict which will have a positive impact on staff, parents and children, resulting in a more harmonious place of work.