Positive Relationships and Behaviour Management


The Positive Relationships Standard

Regulation 19 – Behaviour Management and Discipline


This chapter provides guidance for staff on helping children to establish positive relationships and on managing behaviour, which includes supporting positive behaviour, de-escalation of conflicts and discipline. This procedure is made clear to the responsible authority/placing authority, child and parent(s) before the placement begins or, in an emergency placement, at the time of the placement.

This procedure must be understood and applied at all times by staff, and will be kept under review and revised where appropriate.


Use of Restraint and Physical Intervention Procedure

Bullying Procedure


This chapter was updated in May 2023 to incorporate Ofsted feedback. Information was added into Section 2, Positive Behaviour Support, Section 6, Risk Assessment and Section 9, Recording and Reporting.


  1. Positive Relationships
  2. Positive Behaviour Support
  3. Minimum House Rules
  4. General Principles for Behaviour Management
  5. Placement Planning
  6. Risk Assessment
  7. Managing Challenging Behaviour and De-escalation of Conflicts
  8. Discipline and Sanctions
  9. Recording and Reporting
  10. Follow Up After an Incident

    Further Information

1. Positive Relationships

Children in the Home are helped to develop, and to benefit from, relationships based on:

  • Mutual respect and trust;
  • An understanding about acceptable behaviour; and
  • Positive responses to other children and adults.

In particular, the registered person will ensure that staff:

  • Meet each child's behavioural and emotional needs, as set out in the child's relevant plans;
  • Help each child to develop socially aware behaviour;
  • Encourage each child to take responsibility for the child's behaviour, in accordance with the child's age and understanding;
  • Help each child to develop and practise skills to resolve conflicts positively and without harm to anyone;
  • Communicate to each child expectations about the child's behaviour and ensure that the child understands those expectations in accordance with the child’s age and understanding;
  • Help each child to understand, in a way that is appropriate according to the child's age and understanding, personal, sexual and social relationships, and how those relationships can be supportive or harmful;
  • Help each child to develop the understanding and skills to recognise or withdraw from a damaging, exploitative or harmful relationship;
  • Strive to gain each child's respect and trust;
  • Understand how children's previous experiences and present emotions can be communicated through behaviour and have the competence and skills to interpret these and develop positive relationships with children;
  • Are provided with supervision and support to enable them to understand and manage their own feelings and responses to the behaviour and emotions of children, and to help children to do the same;
  • De-escalate confrontations with or between children, or potentially violent behaviour by children;
  • Understand and communicate to children that bullying is unacceptable; and
  • Have the skills to recognise incidents or indications of bullying and how to deal with them; and
  • That each child is encouraged to build and maintain positive relationships with others.

Children should be supported to understand how to build friendships with other children. They should be able to spend time with their friends in the local community, in their home area, and by having friends visit them at the Home, in line with the child’s plans, age and understanding.

Staff should understand and help children to understand what makes a healthy, nurturing relationship. Staff should be skilled in understanding the range of influences that friendships can have and should encourage those with a positive impact and discourage those with a negative impact. Staff should be skilled to recognise the signs and provide support to children in danger of or involved in exploitative or damaging relationships with others and where possible prevent these types of relationships.

In the case of children who have, or are likely to, sexually offend, the Home should establish the extent to which friendships can be supported, in line with the child's relevant plans and subject to the safety of all concerned.

2. Positive Behaviour Support

The Home is committed to an holistic approach that draws on established theoretical bases, research, best practice and guidance in order to promote and develop positive behaviour.

The Home’s approach to behaviour support:

  • Aims to create a safe, caring environment where children are supported to develop understanding and empathy towards each other;
  • Ensures that all children have opportunities to become confident and achieve their full potential;
  • Encourages the child's consultation and participation in setting rules and consequences;
  • Ensures that all children and young people have clear expectations in relation to their behaviour, are supported to understand and to develop alternative positive approaches to challenges within their lives;
  • Ensues that all children and young people understand how positive behaviour is recognised and rewarded;
  • Ensures that all children and young people are supported to understand the consequences of negative behaviour;
  • Ensures that all staff understand and share the principles of positive approaches to behaviour;
  • Accepts the individuality of children and young people and celebrates the diversity of their backgrounds.

The quality of relationships between professionals, staff caring for the children, the children and their parents (as appropriate) is crucial to this approach.

Staff play an important part in the day-to-day life of a child, and will be trained and supported in establishing positive relationships with children and in managing behaviour, including behaviour which may be challenging at times.

Staff training on behaviour management techniques and strategies will enable them to achieve and develop a more positive relationship with the child and a more harmonious life and will enable the child to feel good about themselves. The development of safe, stable and secure relationships with staff in the Home is central to the ethos of the Home and supports the development of secure attachments that, where appropriate, persist over time.

The capacity and competence of staff to build constructive, warm relationships with children that actively promote positive behaviour, provides the foundations for managing any negative behaviour. Where positive relationships exist between children and staff this should be respected and maintained as far as possible when making any decisions to alter staffing arrangements. The registered person should respond to children's views about changes to staff and be aware of the potential impact this may have for the child’s stability and emotional well-being.

Positive behaviour and relationships should be reinforced, praised and encouraged; poor behaviour should be challenged and discussed.

Staff should at all times endeavour to:

  • Understand factors that affect children's motivation to behave in a socially acceptable way to enable them to respond to each child’s individual behaviour;
  • Encourage an enthusiasm for positive behaviour through the use of positive behaviour strategies in line with the child's relevant plans;
  • Listen to and empathise with children, respect their thoughts and feelings and take their wishes into consideration;
  • Look for things that are going well, or any step in the right direction, and appropriately reward it;
  • Use rewards in a creative and diverse way, specific to children's needs, capabilities and interests. This may mean that children are rewarded with activities or rewards that they enjoy. But all 'tangible' rewards should be accompanied by use of 'non tangible' encouragement and support – by staff demonstrating to children that they have done well. Such 'non tangible' rewards include smiling and praising children;
  • Make sure that children and young people are aware of the things that they have done well. This should involve prompt verbal feedback, along with clear recording in the child or young person’s file. All ‘tangible’ rewards should be clearly identified;
  • Where necessary, manage conflict, maintain constructive dialogues and react appropriately if challenged by a child in their care.

The PACE model can help staff work successfully with a child.

PACE stands for:

Caption: The PACE model
Playfulness Using a light-hearted, reassuring tone – similar to parent-infant interactions – to creating an atmosphere of safety and reassurance where no one feels judged and your child feels able to cope with positive feelings.
Acceptance Acceptance is about actively communicating that you accept the feelings, thoughts and internal struggles that are underneath the child's outward behaviour. It is not about accepting the behaviour itself but helping to teach the child to not feel ashamed by their inner turmoil.
Curiosity Curiosity, without judgement, is how we help children become aware of their inner life. It's about wondering out loud without necessarily expecting an answer in return. Phrases like "I wonder if"…" will help the child to put a name to their emotions and thoughts.
Empathy Feeling a child's sadness of distress with them, being emotionally available to them during times of difficulty shows the child that they are not alone and that the adult are strong enough to support them both through it.

(Sometimes 'L' for Love is included, making PLACE).

3. Minimum House Rules

The Home has house rules, setting out the expectations for how things are managed within the Home. This should be explained to children, with the reasons for the rules and they should also know that that there are rules for everyone. They should not feel that they are being treated with less regard than other children in the Home. Ideally children should know these expectations before they are placed.

These house rules should be recorded on the Placement Plan and in the safe caring document.

House rules will be posted in the staff office, in the Children’s’ Guide and on children’s notice boards. House rules will be revised regularly in consultation with the children and staff team.

4. General Principles for Behaviour Management

  • Treating each child with understanding, dignity, kindness and respect; building, protecting and preserving positive relationships between each child and the adults caring for them;
  • Understanding each child’s behaviour to allow their needs, aspirations, experiences and strengths to be recognised and their quality of life to be enhanced;
  • Involving children and relevant others wherever practical in behaviour management;
  • Supporting each child to balance safety from injury (harm) with making appropriate choices;
  • Making sure the child’s rights are upheld.

5. Placement Planning

Before a child is admitted to the Home, the placing authority will provide information on the following as part of the placement planning process:

  • Any previous challenging behaviour (including violence and aggression);
  • A description of the behaviour, including any triggers so staff can identify whether there are any patterns of behaviour.

Staff in the Home should also ascertain the following:

  • What intervention strategies have been used to manage the behaviour?
  • What interventions had positive outcomes?
  • What interventions triggered further acts of aggression or violence?
  • Whether additional specialist support (e.g. from CYPMHS) is required.

The Home will work closely with the placing authority to understand the child's relationship history and the impact that the child's arrival may have on the group living in the Home.

The Home will maintain effective working relationships with local youth justice and police services where children living in the Home have targets to achieve in reducing offending or socially unacceptable behaviour.

The Home will work closely with health and education professionals to ensure that outcomes identified and progress made by children in building relationships and achieving socially acceptable behaviours can be recorded and measured.

6. Risk Assessment

The Home’s manager should:

  • Ensure all staff are provided with training on how to de-escalate conflict and confrontation and manage aggression and potentially violent behaviour (see Use of Restraint and Physical Intervention Procedure);
  • Undertake written risk assessments and develop strategies for managing any challenging behaviour in individual cases.

The child’s Placement Plan should outline strategies for managing and promoting positive behaviour. If necessary, there should be a separate detailed Behaviour Management Plan/Risk Management Plan.

See also: Risk Assessment and Planning Procedure.

7. Managing Challenging Behaviour and De-escalation of Conflicts

The Home’s approach to positive behaviour support ensures that:

The Home provides an environment and culture that promotes, models and supports positive behaviour. Expectations of standards of behaviour are high for all staff and children in the Home.

Children are enabled to build trusted and secure relationships with adults who are looking after them. Staff, who know the children well, listen to them, invest time in them, protect them and promote their welfare. Children are enabled to develop an appropriate sense of permanence and belonging.

The care and help from staff assists children and young people to develop a positive self-view and to increase their ability to form and sustain attachments and build emotional resilience and a sense of their own identity. This care and help also help them to overcome any previous experiences of neglect and trauma.

All staff receive training in positive care and support of children, including training in de-escalating problems and disputes.

Conflict management is used effectively by staff and includes the appropriate use of restorative practices that improve relationships, increase children's sense of personal responsibility and reduce the need for formal police intervention. Proactive and effective working relationships with the police help to support and protect children. Staff work with the police to protect children from any unnecessary involvement in the criminal justice system.

Children are encouraged and helped to develop skills and strategies to manage their own conflicts and difficult feelings through developing positive relationships with staff. There are clear, consistent and appropriate boundaries for children.

Children receive help and support to manage their behaviour and feelings safely. Staff respond with clear boundaries about what is safe and acceptable and seek to understand the triggers for behaviour.

Positive behaviour is promoted consistently. Staff use effective de-escalation techniques and creative alternative strategies that are specific to the needs of each child and planned in consultation with them where possible.

Staff receive support on how to manage their responses and feelings arising from caring for children, particularly where children display very challenging behaviour, and understand how children's previous experiences can manifest in challenging behaviour.

8. Discipline and Sanctions

Any sanctions used to address poor behaviour should be restorative in nature, to help children recognise the impact of their behaviour on themselves, other children, the staff caring for them and the wider community. In some cases it will be important for children to make reparation in some form to anyone hurt by their behaviour and the staff in the Home should be skilled to support the child to understand this and carry it out.

Equally, staff should understand the system for rewarding and celebrating positive behaviour and recognising where children have managed situations well.

8.1 Guidance on use of Sanctions

Sometimes children present behaviours that are difficult. Because of their experiences some behaviours can be worrying, confusing, upsetting and challenging.

Any action that constitutes a sanction should be proportionate, measured, not harsh and logical. Sanctions should be the last resort. They must work for the child or young person and be child-focused.

Staff should work from a therapeutic or PACE framework to support the child or young person.

Repetition of the rules, humour and clear messages can avoid sanctions being needed.

For a child or young person of an appropriate age, it is important to discuss what they think is an appropriate and fair restriction such as not using their games console for a night, not going out with a friend etc.

8.2 Non Approved Sanctions

The following sanctions are non-approved, which means they may never be imposed upon children:

  • Any form of corporal punishment; i.e. any intentional application of force as punishment, including slapping, punching, rough handling and throwing missiles;
  • Any measure of control, restraint or discipline which is excessive or unreasonable. Restraint is used on a child only where it is necessary to prevent injury to the child or other persons, or serious damage to property. See also: Use of Restraint and Physical Intervention Procedure;
  • Any sanction relating to the consumption or deprivation of food or drink;
  • Any restriction on a child's contact with their parents, relatives or friends; visits to the child by their parents, relatives or friends; a child's communications with any of the persons listed below; or their access to any telephone helpline providing counselling or advice for children. This does not prevent contact or communication being restricted in exceptional circumstances, where it is necessary to do so to protect the child or others:
    • Any officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service appointed for the child;
    • Any social worker for the time being assigned to the child by their placing authority;
    • Any Independent Visitor;
    • Any person authorised by the Regulatory Authority;
    • A solicitor or other adviser or advocate acting for the child;
    • An Independent Visitor appointed for the child;
    • A person appointed to investigate a complaint under the Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure (England) Regulations 2006;
    • An independent person conducting a Regulation 44 visit.
  • Any requirement that a child wear distinctive or inappropriate clothes;
  • The use or withholding of medication or medical or dental treatment;
  • The intentional deprivation of sleep;
  • The modification of a child's behaviour through bribery or the use of threats;
  • Any sanction which may humiliate a child or could cause them to be ridiculed;
  • The imposition of any fine or financial penalty, other than a requirement for the payment of a reasonable sum by way of reparation. (The court may impose fines upon children which staff should encourage and support them to repay);
  • Any intimate physical examination of a child;
  • The withholding of aids/equipment needed by a disabled child;
  • Any measure which involves a child in the imposition of any measure against any other child; or the sanction of a group of children for the behaviour of an individual child;
  • Swearing at the child or the use of foul, demeaning or humiliating language or measures.

(Note that this does not prohibit the taking of any action by, or in accordance with the instructions of, a registered medical practitioner or a registered dental practitioner which is necessary to protect the health of the child; or taking any action that is necessary to prevent injury to any person or serious damage to property).

8.3 Approved Sanctions

Sanctions should be proportionate and work with the child or young person.

These should be recorded and agreed with other professionals. Acceptable sanctions may include:

  • Confiscation or withdrawal of a telephone or mobile phone in order to protect a child or another person from harm, injury or to protect property from being damaged;
  • Restriction on sending or receiving letters or other correspondence (including the use of electronic or internet correspondence) in order to protect a child or another person from harm, injury or to protect property from being damaged;
  • Reparation, involving the child doing something to put right the wrong they have done; e.g. repairing damage or returning stolen property;
  • Restitution, involving the child paying for all or part of damage caused or the replacement of misappropriated monies or goods. No more than two thirds of a child's pocket money may be taken in these circumstances if the payment is small and withdrawn in a single weekly amount. Larger amounts may be paid in restitution but must be of a fixed amount with a clear start and end period. If the damage is serious or the size of payment particularly large then the child's social worker should be informed of the matter;
  • Curtailment of leisure activities, involving a child being prevented from participating in such activities;
  • Early bedtimes, by up to half an hour or as agreed with the child's social worker;
  • Removal of equipment, for example the use of a TV or DVD player;
  • Loss of privileges, for example the withdrawal of the privilege of staying up late;
  • Suspension of pocket money for short periods.

9. Recording and Reporting

The Home Manager must monitor, evaluate and review the use of sanctions and that the sanction used has been appropriate.

The effectiveness of sanctions should be reviewed to ensure sanctions are an effective tool and to help identify any patterns in behaviour. If the sanctions are not working alternative methods should be applied.

The review of the appropriateness, and effectiveness, of any additional measure should include the opinion of the child or young person that the measure relates to.

Sanctions to be recorded in the Sanctions Record and child's record.

The record should contain the opinions of the child or young person. If they are not willing to give an opinion then the record should evidence the time and date that their opinion was sought.

Where relevant, a decision should be made between the staff member, the manager and young person about whether to report matters to the police, see Offending and Anti-Social Behaviour – guidance on when to involve the Police Procedure.

10. Follow Up After an Incident

Whenever an act of violence or aggression has occurred, the Home’s manager should ensure that both staff and the child concerned are allowed to discuss the incident and its impact on themselves and others in the group.

Managers should:

  • Undertake a review and make necessary changes to internal policies, routines and children’s Placement Plans to help with reducing or preventing incidents from occurring in the future;
  • Discuss with staff how they dealt with the situation and, if required, how they could deal with the situation differently in the future.

The Home’s manager should collate data emanating from incidents and periodically undertake a review. The Home’s policies, training strategies, routines and methods for promoting positive behaviour amongst children should be revised as required.

If the level of risk is such that the continuing placement of the child is threatened, or may be at risk of coming to an end, the Home’s manager must draw this to the attention of the child’s social worker and Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), who may decide to convene a Looked After Review.

Further Information

Legislation, Statutory Guidance and Government Non-Statutory Guidance

Positive and Proactive Care: Reducing the Need for Restrictive Interventions - Department of Health and Social Care

Guidance: Positive Environments Where Children Can Flourish (Ofsted)