Extra Resources: Y 1 Responding to Challenging Behaviour

by Jo and Nigel Pimlott. Back to Book: Y 1 Responding to Challenging Behaviour

Developing a Behaviour Policy

Why develop a behaviour policy

Developing a behaviour policy can be a helpful way of exploring issues around how you respond to challenging behaviour. It can give opportunity to:

  • Think through the issues
  • Discuss the issues as a team
  • Explore the issues with the young people

What might a behaviour policy cover?

Depending on your situation, the policy might cover any or all of the following:

  • General expectations of behaviour
  • Values
  • Ground rules
  • Issues relating to discipline and sanctions
  • Responses to criminal behaviour
  • Specific relevant issues such as bullying or drugs

Things to bear in mind when developing a policy

  • Make sure the policy is relevant and appropriate to the organisation in terms of its size and detail. For example, it would be unnecessary for a small weekly youth club to have a long, drawn-out policy with a huge amount of detail that covered every possible eventuality.
  • Seek to keep the policy short and easy for the team and young people to understand. Use simple, clear language.
  • Make sure the policy reflects good practice, legal frameworks and the values of the organisation. Remember to take into account any regulations there may be about the premises you use (eg. Regarding smoking restrictions, health and safety, etc)
  • Use the development of the policy to explore the issues of behaviour, sanctions etc. with the team involved, those who oversee the organisation and the young people themselves. Seek to work participatively in order to create a sense of ownership of the policy and commitment to it, even in the early stages.

Specifics to consider in framing and developing a policy


  • What are your values as an organisation and how will these be reflected in your approach to responding to challenging behaviour?
  • What kind of environment are you seeking to create?
  • What kind of culture are you looking to develop in terms of how people treat one-another?

Ground Rules:

  • What are the key ground rules which need to be established?
  • Are these necessary? Why? Is there a sense of agreement or acceptance around them from team and young people?
  • Are your expectations realistic?
  • How can the ground rules be expressed simply and clearly so they can be understood and remembered by everyone?

Discipline and sanctions

  • What kinds of sanctions will you use for those who behave dangerously or inappropriately? How do these reflect your values as an organisation? (eg are they restorative, appropriate and relevant?)
  • Who will be responsible for deciding on sanctions?
  • How will you ensure that there is transparency, consistency and fairness in applying discipline? How will you avoid heat-of-the moment or emotional responses to difficult situations? How will you ensure that responses are proportionate to what has been done?

Criminal behaviour

  • How, when and by whom will incidents of criminal behaviour be reported to the authorities?
  • How will you help young people develop their understanding of the law and of what activities are not acceptable from a legal and social point of view?

Communication and Training

  • Who else will need to be informed when an incident has occurred?
  • How will this be communicated and by whom?
  • What records will be kept of incidents relating to behaviour (eg. Incident forms, accident book might be relevant here)
  • How will staff and volunteers be trained and supported in responding to challenging behaviour?
  • How will you communicate effectively with young people around these issues?


Sample: Youth Group Discipline Procedures 

  • If a young person is displaying behaviour that is disruptive to the activities or to other young people, take them to one side and ask them to stop.
  • If the behaviour continues, issue the young people with a warning.
  • If disruptive behaviour continues ask the person to leave – issuing a one-session ban.
  • A one-session ban should only be issued if a warning has first been issued OR if a young person has shown physically or verbally aggressive behaviour towards staff, equipment, the building or other young people.
  • It may be possible to issue the young person with a longer ban if it is necessary, for example if they have caused damage to the building or to another person. These cases should be dealt with individually, with length of ban and conditions for return of the young person to the club decided and made clear to all parties involved.
  • If at all possible, permanent bans should be avoided. If you feel that a young persons behaviour warrants a permanent ban, you should speak to your line manager, who will assess the situation, and make the decision with you.
  • It should always be made very clear to the young person why they are banned from the club, and how long for.
  • Where possible always have two staff members present when disciplining a young person, and report what has happened to the rest of the team as soon as possible afterwards (usually at the debriefing session).
  • It is very important that all staff members know about any discipline so that there is consistency of actions between staff, and proper records must be kept.
  • Never use physical force. If you have to break up a fight always have another staff member witness it.

This has been reproduced by kind permission of Kirkby Youth Housing Trust.

Author: Nigel Pimlott

Nigel Pimlott is passionate about work with young people. He has worked for Frontier Youth Trust for many years and is the author of a number of books and youth work resources. He lives in Newark, spends far too long on Facebook, and is a lifelong supporter of Manchester City.

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