Understanding behaviour as communication does not mean allowing antisocial behaviour. It is about giving the child an experience of being thought about and understood, at the same time as setting the necessary firm boundaries. This chapter encourages reflection, both individually and in staff teams, on children’s puzzling and repeated behaviours, with a view to understanding what they might unconsciously be communicating and then responding appropriately out of that understanding.

A lot of the chapter is about how to respond – tentatively, wonderingly, with gentle curiosity and at the right time – and it considers how the intention to try to understand enables the child to feel thought about and ‘heard’. Even if we are wrong, such ‘wonderings’ can open up a useful discussion. Some examples of possible behavioural communications are given and some behaviours like resistance, swearing and hurtful behaviours are considered in more detail. We can never know for certain what a particular behaviour is about, but Appendix 3 gives examples of problematic behaviours and possible meanings, which teachers may find helpful.

Two behavioural reflection exercises are also included in the chapter, plus a ‘rethink and revise’ structure, which some schools and trainers may find useful.