Understanding Child Behaviour Course

Responding to challenging behaviour in children

How do you handle challenging behaviour in children? What are children trying to communicate when they 'act out'? Expand your knowledge and skills for positively addressing this.

Developed by Dr Cara Swit. 


It’s human nature to behave differently. Behaviour is how we communicate. It helps us understand each other.

Challenging behaviour in children can leave carers frustrated and confused. But most children display challenging behaviour at times. So how do you initiate behavioural change? 

This course explores Kaupapa Māori and Western principles. You’ll discover what to do when challenging behaviour becomes frequent and intense, making communication difficult. You’ll learn which resilience and risk factors contribute to challenging behaviour which will help you encourage positive behaviour.

You'll use the knowledge you gain to determine what influences child behaviour and complete a Functional Behavioural Assessment (FBA). These skills will help you implement a positive behaviour strategy and create customised support plans for each child in your care.

This course is ideal for
  • Educators
  • Plunket/Wellbeing nurses 
  • Social workers

What you'll learn

  • Why children behave in a challenging way
  • Resilience and risk factors that affect behaviour  
  • Prevention strategies and ways to respond to challenging behaviour   
  • How to monitor and evaluate behaviour change

Course outline

Our courses are flexible, enabling you to plan your study around your other commitments. You can choose to study when it suits you during the learning period, followed by a 2-week review period for marking and feedback. 

We recommend completing around 4 hours of study a week during the learning period – you can view the course overview here for more details on assessment timings. 

Module 1:  Theories of behaviour
Explore behavioural principles from Kaupapa Māori and Western viewpoints. These cultural theories will help you understand early development behaviour. 

Module 2:  Functions of behaviour
Start thinking critically about why behaviour happens and determine which factors influence it. 

Module 3:  Measures of behaviour
Why assess and measure behaviour? Simple – as humans what we think and what we do can be very different. Learn to use evidence-based tools to measure and collect data on behaviour so you can understand the differences. 

Module 4: Positive behaviour support
What do we mean by positive behaviour, support prevention, and intervention? These are strategies to help you prevent challenging behaviour from escalating. 


  • Assignment on completing a Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA) – 40% 
  • Assignment on implementing a positive Behaviour Strategy – 50%
  • Engagement activities throughout the course – 10%

Upon successful completion of the course you will be issued a digital badge to recognise your learning achievements. This can take up to 2 months to be delivered after the marking and feedback period.  


This course is equivalent to Level 8 postgraduate study therefore applicants must meet the entry criteria as approved by NZQA, and have; 
  • Either a Bachelor's degree or equivalent level qualification
  • OR equivalent professional experience in a relevant field. Learners will be asked to demonstrate equivalent professional experience, which can include paid or voluntary work. If you’d like to check if you have the equivalent professional experience you can email us at info@uconline.ac.nz
You also need consent to work with a child in your care (of any age) so you can monitor their behaviour and develop a plan to support them.
Technology requirements
We recommend a laptop or desktop computer and a reliable internet connection. For most courses you'll need to download and populate assignments. These are usually available in Microsoft Word.
Course fees
Course fees must be paid before learning can begin, either via online credit-card payment, or by contacting info@uconline.ac.nz to request an invoice. Please note: fixed invoice payment dates apply, so we recommend getting in touch with us as soon as possible to request an invoice, as this option is subject to availability.

Group discounts

Get your colleagues together to take advantage of our group discounts: 

  • 10% for 3 - 6 learners
  • 15% for 7+ learners

Contact our Partnerships Manager to learn more and enquire now.

Minimum enrolment threshold

Please note: Tuihono UC | UC Online has a minimum enrolment threshold that must be met to enable opportunities for interaction, discussion, and feedback. If the minimum number of enrolments required for a course is not met, enrolled students will be given the option to defer their enrolment to the next course date, or receive a refund. 

Our people


Dr Cara Swit

Senior Lecturer | Above the Bar

Now a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury, Cara holds a Doctor of Philosophy from Macquarie University.  Her research examines the social behaviour and interactions of children during early childhood.
She investigates how the following relationships evolve over time:
  • parent-child 
  • teacher-child 
  • peer-peer
  • sibling-sibling
She also examines how children learn to understand and engage with their social world. She’s particularly interested in how they use aggression and bullying. And she looks at how the beliefs and attitudes of teachers, parents, and children influence child behaviour – directly and indirectly.
Her current research project, THRIVE, examines parent and early childhood educator health and wellbeing. It also looks at children's social and emotional development. This project aims to improve our understanding of the risk and protective factors that contribute to New Zealand having the highest rate of reported childhood bullying and some of the worst child wellbeing outcomes in the OECD.

Please note: our academic team develop and present video content within their courses, but are not always the course facilitator. The course facilitator will engage with learners in the course forums, answer queries and mark assignments.