Behaviour can sometimes be a concern for families. Please remember that there are no behavioural problems unique to Down’s syndrome and most children with Down syndrome are capable of behaving in an age-appropriate way.
Here are some practical tips to help you support your child to behave well:
- Have high expectations of your child, and expect them to behave well.
- Set boundaries from an early stage in life. Give your child clear routines, e.g. set bedtimes and meal times, to help them understand what is expected.
- Be a good role model and model the behaviour you expect from your child.
- Identify what is happening and what’s causing it. It may feel like your child behaves in a way you don’t expect all the time, but there may be an underlying cause triggering it, e.g. an unfamiliar situation or when your child feels anxious or frustrated.
- Writing a ‘behaviour diary’ is a good way to step back and get a clearer picture of what’s happening.
- Consider what your child may be trying to communicate to you through their behaviour. Teach them a better way of communicating – e.g. a word; gesture or sign; or a picture to point at, less aggressive ways of showing anger, etc.
- Find ways to minimise behaviour triggers. For example, if particular situations or environments make your child feel stressed, think about ways to make these places less frightening. Social stories are one way of doing this. The National Autistic Society has more information about social stories – though it is aimed at parents of children with autism, social stories can also be a useful tool for other children.
- Think about how you and others around your child react to behaviour you do not want. The way you react immediately after the behaviour can reinforce and encourage that behaviour. Reacting in as neutral a way as possible e.g. without eye contact, saying no, etc. can prevent behaviour being accidently reinforced.
- Think about how the people around your child are acting and feeling. Children with Down’s syndrome can be very sensitive to the feelings of others, and if the people around them feel angry or anxious, they may be picking up on these feelings.
- Praise your child every time they behave well and ignore any behaviour you do not expect. Consistent positive reinforcement can help your child learn how to behave well.
Children with Down’s syndrome sometimes struggle to understand the difference between public and private behaviour. Children with Down’s syndrome need to be explicitly taught the difference between the two, so it’s good to start early. Tell your child exactly what kinds of behaviour and body parts are private. Make some privacy rules (e.g. shut the door when you use the toilet, knock on the bedroom door before you go in) and make sure everyone in the house sticks to them.
If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s behaviour, call our helpline.
If you are struggling to cope with your child’s behaviour, the Challenging Behaviour Foundation has information and resources that may help you.