Children and youth who participate in Out-of-School Time programs gain the personal, social, emotional, and educational assets needed to support healthy development, increase well-being, and facilitate a successful transition through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood.
Literature highlights the importance of: (1) creating a safe, supportive, and stable program environment that emphasizes positive behavioral supports and consistent implementation of rules; (2) focusing on the causes of disruptive behavior rather than focusing only on the behavior itself; (3) viewing incidents as learning opportunities that can help improve how children act and relate to others; (4) avoiding exclusionary or overly punitive disciplinary practices; (5) balancing accountability for actions with an understanding of the factors and underlying causes that may have contributed to those actions; and (6) facilitating access to needed services.
Note: See CYD-OST 3 and 8 for more information regarding the importance of using a variety of strategies to ensure that all children and youth are appropriately and sufficiently engaged in the program.
When concerning behaviors or conflicts arise, personnel determine:
when children and youth can be left alone or quickly redirected;
when children and youth can be encouraged to resolve situations on their own; and
when it is necessary to intervene.
When children and youth experience conflicts personnel should typically encourage them to try to resolve the situation on their own, and step in only as needed. However, personnel should also take care to ensure that the situation is resolved effectively. It is also important to note that children and youth should never be encouraged to find a mutually-agreeable solution on their own if there is a power imbalance between them, as addressed in CYD-OST 5.06.
When it is necessary to intervene in a situation, personnel:
remain calm and patient;
refrain from publicly criticizing children and youth, to the extent possible;
acknowledge the feelings of children and youth;
help children and youth cool down, as needed;
speak with children and youth to learn their perspectives regarding what caused the situation; and
consider whether there are any underlying causes or circumstances that may have triggered or contributed to the situation.
In an effort to prevent future incidents and maintain a positive program climate, responses to concerning behavior include:
viewing incidents as learning opportunities that can help improve how children and youth behave and relate to others;
helping children and youth reflect upon why the incident occurred, the impact of their actions, what they can do differently next time, and what support is needed to make that change;
helping children and youth take responsibility for their actions in ways that are respectful, appropriate to age and developmental level, and related to the behavior in question;
helping children and youth repair their relationships with their peers and the program community; and
considering and addressing the needs and circumstances of all involved, including balancing accountability for actions with an understanding of the factors and underlying causes that may have contributed to those actions.
While some programs will have pre-determined consequences for specific behaviors, it may be more appropriate to individualize consequences based on the specific needs and circumstances of children and youth, and to involve children and youth in determining consequences designed to help youth take responsibility for their actions and repair any harm that occurred. For example, a youth who has vandalized the program’s restroom might meet with the custodian at the program to learn about the extent and costs of the damage done, and to assist with needed repairs. Regardless of whether consequences are pre-determined or tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of children and youth, programs should avoid the use of exclusionary or overly-punitive consequences (e.g., suspension), as addressed in both CYD-OST 5.08 and the Research Note to CYD-OST 5.
In an effort to meet the needs of children and youth with a history of trauma, personnel:
are able to recognize when a child or youth may have experienced trauma;
understand the impact of trauma, including the impact trauma can have on child learning and behavior; and
balance accountability for actions with an understanding of the way past trauma may have contributed to those actions.
Note:Programs can also support children and youth with a history of trauma by: (1) building partnerships with organizations that provide trauma-specific treatment interventions, as referenced in CYD-OST 7.06, and (2) facilitating access to needed services, as addressed in CYD-OST 6.06.
Children who have experienced trauma may exhibit problem behaviors related to that trauma, and can then become re-traumatized through punishment for those behaviors, thereby perpetuating the cycle of trauma and behavioral problems. Accordingly, literature on trauma-informed care points to the importance of developing behavior management policies and procedures that reflect an understanding of the impact trauma can have on child learning and behavior, and address disruptive behaviors in ways that help break the cycle of trauma and behavioral problems. This literature highlights the importance of: (1) training personnel to recognize and understand the impact of trauma, as referenced in CYD-HR 5.06 and CYD-OST 5.05; (2) creating a safe, supportive, and stable program environment that emphasizes positive behavioral supports and consistent implementation of rules, as addressed in CYD-OST 2, 3, 4, and 5; (3) focusing on the causes of disruptive behavior rather than focusing only on the behavior itself, as addressed in CYD-OST 5.03 and 5.04; (4) avoiding exclusionary or overly punitive disciplinary practices, as addressed in CYD-OST 5.08; (5) balancing accountability for actions with an understanding of the way past trauma may have contributed to those actions, as addressed in CYD-OST 5.04 and 5.05; (6) viewing incidents as learning opportunities that can help to improve how children act and relate to others, as addressed in CYD-OST 5.04; (7) building partnerships with organizations that provide trauma-specific treatment interventions, as referenced in CYD-OST 7.06; and (8) facilitating access to needed services, as addressed in CYD-OST 6.06.
Personnel are able to recognize when a child or youth may be experiencing bullying, and:
intervene immediately and appropriately with the involved children and youth;
document the incident(s);
follow up individually with the involved children and youth to make sure the bullying does not continue and address both the causes and any negative effects of the bullying; and
collaborate with families, other program personnel, and other relevant partners to monitor the situation and address any issues and effects.
Please note that involved children and youth include both the bully and the victim of the bullying, as well as any bystanders. Programs should also have and follow clear procedures regarding when a situation should be reported to school-day personnel or other applicable authorities.
Note:In addition to intervening when bullying occurs, as addressed in this standard, programs can also take steps to prevent bullying from happening by encouraging pro-social behavior and fostering a sense of community among children and youth, as referenced in CYD-OST 4. Given the increased incidence of cyberbullying, it is also important to teach children and youth how to navigate the internet safely and responsibly, as addressed in CYD-OST 12.13.
Bullying is an extreme form of peer conflict that is deliberate and repeated, involves a power imbalance, and typically peaks in early adolescence. Bullying can be physically and psychologically harmful, and may take different forms – from physical assaults, to rumor spreading and social exclusion, to mean-spirited teasing, jokes, or name calling (e.g., racist or sexist jokes, or mocking someone’s abilities). It is also important to remember that bullying can occur both in-person and electronically (e.g., via social media).
When children and youth have special behavioral needs, personnel provide additional support and individualized interventions, as needed.
Appropriate responses may vary, depending on the child or youth and the situation. In some cases it may be necessary to partner with children, families, and other involved providers to develop behavior management plans that include specific strategies for supporting a child’s behavior based on his or her individual needs and circumstances.
If an enrolled child or youth is unable to be successful in the program, personnel should: (1) initiate a conversation with both the child or youth and his/her family, and (2) make every effort to ensure that the family obtains information about programs and services that may be more appropriate for the child or youth. However, all possible accommodations and interventions should be exhausted before it is decided that a particular child or youth is not appropriate for the program. As noted in CYD-OST 1.06 and 14.07, programs are expected to accommodate all children and youth unless: (1) an individual poses a safety threat to him/herself or others, (2) the accommodations needed would result in a fundamental alteration to the program, or (3) the accommodations needed would put an undue financial burden on the program.