At some point all YAC volunteers will have to manage difficult behaviour. This can be caused by a wide variety of things, including tiredness, boredom, prolonged concentration, inability to do a task, low self-esteem and worries about problems outside of YAC. Good session planning and management and having clear expectations of acceptable behaviour will help ensure that your sessions run smoothly. Managing groups of young people is not easy, but it is something you and your team will get better at with practice.
Remember that the whole team is responsible for maintaining good behaviour. Volunteers should model the behaviour they expect from children: if you talk at the back during a presentation, children will think it’s ok to do so too.
Draw up a set of behaviour guidelines that all members and volunteers sign up to. You should involve your members in deciding what these will be, and perhaps write them up on a large poster which each volunteer and member can sign, and which you can display at your sessions.
Decide on a strategy for gaining attention without raising your voice. This could be, for example, a ‘hands up’. When a volunteer raises one hand, it means that they would like everyone to stop what they’re doing, raise their hand and look at the volunteer. When every hand is raised and there is silence, the volunteer lowers their hand, waits for everyone else to do so, then delivers their instruction or information. Make sure you explain any strategy clearly to your members so they know what is expected of them. Once you have decided upon a strategy, use it consistently.
Plan your sessions to be varied and interesting, and have back-up activities ready: poor behaviour is more likely to occur when young people are at a loose end.
Dealing with poor behaviour
Poor behaviour can be very frustrating, not only for volunteers but for other members of the club. Try to make sure you consider any additional needs or extenuating circumstances that may be contributing to the behaviour and think about strategies for dealing with them.
Please remember that under no circumstances may you hit or physically harm a young person who is misbehaving.
If there are difficulties, speak to the member in the first instance, explaining factually the impact their behaviour has on the group. YAC is an inclusive club and members should be given every opportunity to correct their behaviour. They must also be given a clean slate if their behaviour does improve.
If the situation does not improve, approaching parents/guardians at an early stage and in a friendly manner will help to gain their support. Discuss factually the problem/s you have encountered and how you have attempted to deal with them. Can they suggest any successful support strategies used at home or school which you could try? Contact YAC HQ at an early stage too: keeping us fully informed means we can offer you support and advice.
If a member’s behaviour is consistently bad and talking with parents/guardians has not helped, it is reasonable to ask parents/guardians to stay with the young person or to discuss whether the child really wants to be a member of the group.
You should record all incidents of poor behaviour and keep these with your club files. In cases of extreme behaviour, a copy of this should be sent to YAC HQ.