Managing challenging behaviour

Managing challenging behaviour

What is challenging behaviour?

Challenging behaviour is any behaviour that is disruptive, harmful, or dangerous to the person themselves or others. It can be physical, verbal, or nonverbal, and it can occur in any setting, including at home, school, or work.

What are the causes of challenging behaviour?

There are many possible causes of challenging behaviour, including:

  • Communication difficulties: People with communication difficulties may have trouble expressing themselves in a way that others understand. This can lead to frustration and challenging behaviour.
  • Sensory sensitivities: People with sensory sensitivities may be overstimulated or understimulated by certain sensations, such as noise, light, or touch. This can lead to anxiety and challenging behaviour.
  • Learning disabilities: People with learning disabilities may have difficulty understanding or following instructions, or completing tasks. This can lead to frustration and challenging behaviour.
  • Mental health conditions: Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum disorder can all lead to challenging behaviour.
  • Trauma: People who have experienced trauma may exhibit challenging behaviour as a way of coping with their distress.
  • Physical health conditions: Some physical health conditions, such as pain, fatigue, and medication side effects, can also lead to challenging behaviour.

How to manage challenging behaviour

The best way to manage challenging behaviour is to understand the underlying cause of the behaviour and to develop a plan to address it. This may involve working with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, psychologist, or occupational therapist.

Here are some general tips for managing challenging behaviour:

  • Stay calm and positive. It is important to stay calm and positive, even when the person is exhibiting challenging behaviour. Getting angry or upset will only make the situation worse.
  • Try to understand the person’s perspective. Try to understand what the person is trying to communicate with their behaviour. Are they feeling frustrated, anxious, or bored? Once you understand the cause of the behaviour, you can start to develop a plan to address it.
  • Provide clear and concise instructions. If you are giving the person instructions, make sure that they are clear and concise. Avoid using too many words or complex instructions.
  • Be consistent. It is important to be consistent with your expectations and consequences. This will help the person to understand what is expected of them and what will happen if they engage in challenging behaviour.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Praise the person when they are exhibiting good behaviour. This will help them to learn that good behaviour leads to positive outcomes.
  • Take breaks. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is important to take a break. This will help you to stay calm and positive.

Specific strategies for managing different types of challenging behaviour


  • If the person is being aggressive, try to stay calm and avoid escalating the situation.
  • Remove the person from the situation if possible.
  • If the person is still being aggressive, you may need to use physical restraint to protect yourself or others.

Self-injurious behaviour:

  • If the person is engaging in self-injurious behaviour, try to identify the trigger for the behaviour and avoid it if possible.
  • Provide the person with a safe and supportive environment.
  • If the person is still engaging in self-injurious behaviour, you may need to seek professional help.

Destructive behaviour:

  • If the person is engaging in destructive behaviour, try to keep them away from harmful objects.
  • Provide the person with safe and appropriate activities.
  • If the person is still engaging in destructive behaviour, you may need to seek professional help.


  • If the person is having a tantrum, try to stay calm and avoid giving them attention.
  • Provide the person with a safe place to calm down.
  • Once the person has calmed down, talk to them about why they were having a tantrum and what you can do to help them avoid having tantrums in the future.

It is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing challenging behaviour. The best approach will vary depending on the individual and the underlying cause of the behaviour. If you are struggling to manage challenging behaviour, it is important to seek professional help.

Here are some additional tips for managing challenging behaviour:

  • Develop a behaviour plan. A behaviour plan is a written document that outlines the person’s challenging behaviour, the triggers for the behaviour, and the strategies that will be used to manage the behaviour. You can develop a behaviour plan with the help of a healthcare professional or other specialist.
  • Communicate with others. It is important to communicate with others about the person’s challenging behaviour and the strategies that are being used to manage it. This will help everyone to be on the same page and to work together to provide the person