Behavior & special needs

Dealing with special needs and behavior of younger youth

Children with special needs

Children with special needs are found in every community. Despite their special needs, these children are more like other children than they are different. They have the same basic needs for friendship, participation, and recognition that other children have. Involving these children in the 4-H Cloverbud Program provides valuable learning opportunities for all involved.

Children with special needs benefit from interaction with their peers, and the other children learn to understand the nature of disabilities and to see the child rather than the disability first. Likewise, you, as a leader will learn new information and develop new skills as a result of working with children with special needs.

More special needs resources

Guidance and discipline

All children misbehave from time to time. It is a natural consequence of growing, exploring, and testing. Your response to inappropriate behavior will depend on the specifics of the situation, the personality of the youngster, and your own personality and skills.

There is no one best way to respond to all situations. However, a good strategy is to prevent misbehavior from occurring in the first place. You can avoid many problem situations simply by making sure an activity is developmentally appropriate.

To help prevent problem behaviors, follow these guidelines

  • Greet children individually each time you meet

  • Develop positive relationships with the children

  • Plan ahead so that activities are well organized

  • Keep children actively and constructively involved

  • Convey clear and consistent expectations for behaviors

When inappropriate behavior does occur, it becomes your responsibility to teach appropriate behavior.

Here are six guidelines for dealing with misbehavior

  • Identify the cause of the behavior

  • Formulate a response strategy (for instance, redirect a child’s efforts, change partners, or provide individual assistance)

  • Consistently enforce rules and consequences

  • Maintain self-control

  • Avoid power struggles

  • If misbehavior persists, involve parents to help solve the problem

Remember, your goal is to help children develop self-control. You can do this by modeling appropriate behaviors, by helping them learn needed skills, and by providing opportunities to practice those skills.


Becky Harrington, director of operations and systems,, 612-624-7974