Behaviour management and codes of conduct

Last updated: 30 Sep 2019 Topics: Safeguarding and child protection
Introduction

Organisations that work with children need to have clear expectations about what behaviour is acceptable from adults, children and young people. By setting this out formally you can make sure everyone understands the appropriate way to behave. This will help you:

  • protect children and young people from abuse
  • manage any allegations or incidents of inappropriate behaviour
  • ensure everyone - staff, volunteers and children and young people - feels safe, respected and valued.

We call this a code of conduct, or behaviour code, and you should have a separate code for adults and for children. Sometimes it is included in your behaviour management policy. It should form part of your safeguarding and organisational policies, procedures and standards.

We've created example behaviour codes for adults and for children and young people, which you can use to make sure everyone in your organisation understands the right way to behave. They should be used alongside the information on these pages and our further resources on safeguarding and child protection.

Example behaviour code for adults working with children

Example behaviour code for adults working with children

Everyone who works with children and young people is acting in a position of authority and responsibility. Staff and volunteers are often seen as role models, so it's essential that they behave in an appropriate way and are able to recognise and report any behaviour that causes concern.

Your behaviour code, or code of conduct, should set out your expectations for all staff and volunteers. This includes anyone who is undertaking duties for your organisation, whether paid or unpaid, such as agency staff, interns and students on work placement. It should cover the role of staff and volunteers, their responsibilities and what behaviour is appropriate, inappropriate or unacceptable.

> Download example behaviour code for adults working with children (PDF)

Appropriate behaviour and contact

Make sure your behaviour code sets out what is appropriate contact with children and young people - both in person or online. This will help ensure that everyone feels safe, comfortable and protected.

Your code should make it clear that whenever possible more than one adult should be present during activities with children and young people. It should also cover what to do when this isn't practical. For example, if an adult must work alone with a child or group, perhaps as part of a support or mentoring role, then you must make sure they are suitable for this role and there are adequate safeguarding measures.

You should also ensure you have enough adults to provide the appropriate level of supervision when working with children and young people.

Make sure you have support in place for your staff and volunteers and that they have undertaken training in child protection relevant to their role.

> Find out more about preventing abuse by someone in a position of trust or authority

> Find out more about lone working

> Find out more about recommended adult to child ratios

> View our training and elearning courses

Online behaviour and contact

Your code of conduct should cover what behaviour is appropriate online. Make it clear that staff and volunteers should never give children their personal contact details or add, follow or interact with them using a personal social media account.

> Read our scenario and advice about inappropriate online behaviour by a volunteer

What to do if there are concerns

If an adult has any concerns about a child or young person, or about the way that another adult is behaving, then they should report this following your organisation's safeguarding procedures.

Any allegation that a member of staff or volunteer has behaved in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed, a child or young person must be taken seriously and dealt with sensitively and promptly.

> Find out more about managing allegations

> Download example behaviour code for adults working with children (PDF)

Example behaviour code for children and young people

Example behaviour code for children and young people

It's important that the children and young people you work with understand what is acceptable behaviour and the consequences of any inappropriate behaviour. You should create a set of rules and guidelines, or code of conduct, for young people to follow. Make sure this is available and accessible to all children and young people.

Your behaviour code should cover what behaviour is okay and what isn't okay, what happens if they don't follow the code and what to do if they have any worries or concerns. If a child or young person behaves in a way that's not appropriate you should try to understand the reasons for that behaviour and support them in making changes. You should consider whether a young person has additional needs or there are underlying issues affecting their behaviour.

> Download example behaviour code for children and young people (PDF)

Managing behaviour

If a child or young person behaves in a way that isn't appropriate or acceptable, and this is a minor or first-time incident, then you should:

  • remind them about the code of behaviour
  • ask them to comply with it
  • give them an opportunity to change the way they're behaving.

This will help children and young people reflect on their behaviour and plan a positive response with help from staff and volunteers.

One way of doing this is by using a warning system to help children and young people understand the steps you will take.

Minor or first-time incident

If a child or young person is behaving inappropriately, remind them about the code of conduct and give them the opportunity to change their behaviour.

Formal warning

If the inappropriate behaviour continues, a formal warning should be issued. Record the incident and inform their parents or carers as appropriate.

Talk about what happened and agree what support is need to improve behaviour in the future - it may be that a different strategy needs to be tried.

Decide whether a sanction, like restricting the use of certain facilities, is appropriate.

Final warning

If the young person’s behaviour continues to be a problem, issue a final warning. Record the incident and inform their parents or carers as appropriate.

At this point, you may need to talk with them and their parents about other services that might be better able to give them the support they need.

Acting on concerns about child protection

If you're concerned that a child or young person's behaviour suggests that they may be at risk of significant harm or may present a risk to others, you must follow your organisation's safeguarding procedures.

> Find out more about managing allegations made against a child

> Find out more about recognising harmful sexual behaviour

> View our elearning on managing sexualised behaviour

> Download example behaviour code for children and young people (PDF)