The classification of behaviour is very subjective. How should we determine whether a particular behaviour is ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Normal or good behaviour can generally be described as a behaviour that conforms to the most common behaviour in society. As a result it will vary from culture to culture and even across regions in the same country. Behaviour that is considered normal of positive in one area may be perceived in a very different way elsewhere.
Every behaviour has a cause. The Principle of Positive Intention goes as far as to state that behind every behaviour there is a positive intention. This presupposition claims that at every level our behaviour is geared towards achieving a positive outcome, whether we are aware of it or not. It is important to try and pick apart the cause of ‘poor’ behaviour in order to support the child.
Obvious impacts of low level disruptive behaviour is the disruption caused to sessions or activities. These disruptions may impact on the number and range of opportunities children get to experience during a session and impact on their concentration when taking part in activities.
Higher levels of poor behaviour may pose a physical risk of harm to the child, the other children in the group or damage to property. These behaviours may result in activities or sessions being cut short of cancelled completely.
Staff in the session may likely have to spend more time supporting the child displaying outward poor behaviour than other children in the group.
Repeated incidents of poor behaviour from the same child may result in other children avoiding interaction with that child and risk social isolation.
Even when the behavioural actions themselves would be classified as negative the impact on others may be a positive one. Poor behaviour displayed by others will present children with opportunities to develop resilience, tolerance and empathy.
When there is discussion of behaviour it is often about what is perceived as poor or undesirable behaviour. Positive behaviour can have a significant impact on how much a child learns and develops during a session. Ensuring the environment is one which meets a child’s needs and promotes positive behaviour is key to supporting this as the child will be more able to relax. The forest school ethos is one in which all members of the session are equals and all should be valued as individuals. It is important that all children feel safe and feel that they are listened to and respected by others. It may be useful, in a way that is appropriate for the group, to agree guidelines or rules for behaviour during sessions. Leaders should model positive behaviour and positive behaviour should be recognised and celebrated.