- Iowa State University Extension – Understanding Children: Fears
- National Network for Child Care – Getting Along When I Am Angry
- NAEYC – Teaching Children a Vocabulary for Emotions
- NAEYC – Teaching Children to Name Their Feelings
- CSEFEL – Family Tool for Teaching Emotions
- CSEFEL – Teaching Your Birth to Age 2 Child Feelings
Have you ever had a child start in your program and appear to have no experience with art materials? It seems the first thing they do is squeeze the glue bottle until the page is nearly filled with glue and the bottle is near empty. Give thought to WHY the child did this. If we have never experienced a material, we likely don’t understand its use and purpose – even something as common to us as adults as glue.
So, is the next step to deny future opportunities with glue so that no more is wasted? No teacher (particularly one on a tight budget!) likes to see “wasted” glue, but we have to see this as a teaching opportunity with something like, “Glue can help us attach one thing to another. It works best when we squeeze gently and use small dots like this.” A visual cue card might also be needed as a reminder.
I am always surprised to hear early childhood staff share with me things like, “I could never have a garden. My children would just destroy it” or even “I can’t keep my books out because children will rip the pages.” While I understand the feeling, we must challenge ourselves to see the initial experience as exploration (so not a time to scold a child) and then support the child in learning more appropriate use of materials.
P.S. To respond with your thoughts, visit http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/exploration/
In early childhood, we have a love/hate relationship with time out. Some of us see it as an opportunity for children to calm down and re-enter the group once they are in better control of their emotions. Yet it is likely many of us have overused it – a crutch that becomes a quick fix in our busy day rather than a reflective look at what might be the real concern. An interesting read is Dr. Peter Haiman’s case against time out for The Natural Child Project.
In the state of Iowa, we are working diligently to support early childhood professionals with methods that will be proactive and reduce discipline issues in early childhood classrooms. Having a state partnership with the Center for Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning in order to share the Pyramid Model is one such example. Some programs also use the Committee for Children’s Second Step curriculum as an intentional way to positively build children’s social-emotional skills.
Give some thought to guidance methods you are using in your early learning program. You should have written policies (that you follow!) that share with parents and others how you are being proactive and how issues are handled when they do arise. Give thought to if you are using time out (a break away from the group – no matter what you call it) too much. Child Care Resource and Referral offers some great suggestions related to time out in their position statement, and Cooperative Extension also has some recommendations. A fabulous resource to share with parents on this topic is Understanding Children: Disciplining Your Preschooler.
What is the guidance policy for your program? Do you believe time out has a place in an early childhood program? What other methods have you found to be effective in supporting positive children’s positive social skills? We hope to hear from you at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/time-out/
We received the following question from a blog follower:
In my child care I have one little guy (3 1/2 yr old) that has started throwing fits when asked to pick up toys or anything. He literally throws himself on the floor, kicking, screaming, yelling, he spits on my floor or me and I am just not sure what else to try. This makes for a very stressful day for me and the other kids. He thinks everything is funny! I am not sure what I can do to change this. It just is getting worse every day! Please help! Thanks!
Handling meltdown situations such as these can be challenging and stressful. However, know that when I look back on my experiences as an early educator it is often the children that challenged me the most that I feel the strongest connection to! Here are some thoughts/suggestions:
- Schedule a time to talk with the child’s parents when it is convenient for both of you. Be open and honest about the challenge you are facing while also sharing with them the strengths you see in their child. See what suggestions they might have and if it is possible for you to give those a try in your child care setting.
- Chart when the meltdowns are happening and what you observed before it happened. This may give you some clues about what is triggering the undesired behavior. Is it during transitions or when meals are getting close? Does the frustration come about when trying to interact socially with other children? Does it happen when there has been a long period without attention from you or at a time where over-stimulation might be occurring? Remember that every behavior has a function! And we have to be detectives to try and figure out what the function of this behavior is in order to help the child better manage his or her needs.
- Think of a tantrum such as this like surfing a huge wave. When the child is at the peak of that ride is not the time where any teaching can occur. We have to try our best just before the wave or in those initial stages to redirect or give needed attention. Once the child hits a certain point in the wave, s/he is emotionally not able to come back until s/he rides it through. Stay calm and try your best to keep him or her safe. Once the ride is over, children are usually shaken by the release of emotion. Try to be reassuring that you care and that the two of you will work through this. This does not mean you approve of the behavior, but helps the child know s/he is still worthy of love. Remind yourself that most children only release this type of emotion with people they feel safe and comfortable with. The more calm you can stay, the quicker the episode will de-escalate.
- Have you considered taking a Positive Behavior Intervention Support course? If you are in Iowa, check with your local CCR&R or AEA organization about classes in your area. This resource will provide you with specific strategies to teach children with challenging behaviors social and emotional skills. It will provide you with a “toolbox” of ideas such as scripted stories, the turtle technique, steps to solve problems, and giving names to feelings.
- ISU Extension and Outreach has a publication on temper tantrums that is FREE to download. It offers some excellent suggestions!
Keep in mind that if you recognized a child in your program was struggling with motor or cognitive skills, you would provide positive opportunities for the child to develop those skills. We as early childhood professionals have to strive to work with a child struggling in the social/emotional area in the same way.
Suggestions from Lori:
- A ‘heads up’ of what is coming next… ie in 10 min we will clean up, in 5 min we will clean up – in the long run giving him warnings about what is going to happen next will take less time than the tantrum.
- Also when you give the heads up let him know what your expectation will be…. in 10 minutes we will clean up and your job will be the ‘x’… be specific and make sure it is smaller and manageable.
- Vary your warnings so that each time he has to ‘think’ about what you said…. in 5 min I can’t wait to give you a high five for picking up ‘x’.
These steps may not work every time but don’t give up… he will soon come to realize that you have expectations and that you give him more positive attention when he follows through.
Hope this has been helpful and has provided you with the encouragement you need to help this child (and you!) through this challenge. Blog readers, do you have suggestions for our colleague? We would love for you to share your ideas in the comment section!
Lori Hayungs is a member of the team here at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She is super excited to share with all of us this month’s Science of Parenting podcast on the “engine” that drives a child and how we can best support that engine. Malisa
One of my very favorite topics and people is the focus of this month’s Science of Parenting podcast. As child care providers this information is essential to making your days less stressful and energy draining. In fact with Mary’s tips you can find that learning about temperament can add MORE energy to your days! Some of my favorite quotes from this months information are below.
“There are kids who are like the Chevy truck — it will get you where you want and it’s very dependable,” Kurcinka said. On the other hand, “some children, by their very nature, have a more active arousal system. Some of them have what we would call a Lamborghini engine inside. It takes more skill to work with spirited kids, but the ride is also much more exciting.”
After listening to the podcast what energizes you about temperament?
Colds are contagious and so is stress! It is estimated that 60-90% of doctor visits are related to stress. Children are affected by stress of their own as well as that of their caregivers. Over the years I’ve learned my body’s signals that I’m operating under stress. One big sign is when my left eye gets a twitch. When that happens, I know I need to pay attention to caring for myself so that I can stay healthy. By ignoring what my body is telling me, I risk not being my best self – the parent I want to be, the spouse I want to be, and the professional I want to be.
Instead of just trying to tell yourself and the children in your care to “calm down” the next time you feel stress levels rising, I invite you to try some “tools” to manage stress and anxiety. You don’t need to be skilled in yoga to do meditative breathing or guided imagery! My colleague has recorded a dozen relaxation techniques that can be practiced in less than 6 minutes each. Give one of these a try this week for yourself. Then share it with a child, a friend or family member this month. It’s just in time for the added stress many of us feel around the holidays! Here is the link to the relaxation videos – http://tinyurl.com/relax2011
Research shows that people who practice mind body skills regularly can lower their blood pressure and heart rate; increase their mental clarity and ability to concentrate; have stronger immune systems and sustain a sense of hope and well-being. We all experience stress, but becoming resilient to its effects depends on our ability to “re-set” the stress response with a relaxation response. Children want to feel calm and in control of their minds and bodies. With a little help from you, they can!
What are your body’s signs that you are operating under stress? What techniques have you found helpful to “re-set” the stress so that you can be a more relaxed early childhood professional? What are some “tools” you use with children to help them be active participants in being more peaceful and healthy?
Have there ever been children that you struggled to make a connection with? I have been fortunate to have a co-teacher with all of my classroom teaching experiences. This has given me valuable insight into recognizing how much of a role temperament plays in the relationship between children and adults. Everyone is born with certain temperament traits. Some of us naturally have a high activity level and are constantly moving and need to be doing something. Others are less active and feel satisfied without constantly moving and doing. Even as babies some of us were more outgoing, while others were more slow to warm up to new situations and people. I would describe myself as more on the outgoing and active side, but I had a fabulous co-teacher who was more on the reserved side. One of the things that made us a great team was her recognition and understanding of children with temperaments more similar to hers. I would be off on a bear hunt adventure with a crew of kids – our animated voices and chatter filling the room as we crawled under “logs” and swam through the “river.” I would look across the room and see her sharing a quiet moment with a child in the reading corner who wasn’t wild about the idea of moving loudly around the classroom in search of a bear. I was so thankful she was able to make that meaningful connection.
One of the things we need to recognize in ourselves is our own temperament, how it affects the kind of teacher we are, and how we tend to naturally be drawn to those with similar temperaments. If we have a more flexible temperament, it can hard to understand the child who gets upset when the structure of the day changes a bit due to a teachable moment. If we have a high sensory threshold, it can be hard to be sensitive to the child that is easily irritated by his socks being on funny or a tag on her shirt. The challenge for us as early educators is not to try and change children’s temperament to what we prefer (this will only result in frustration for you and the child), but to recognize the strengths in the continuum of temperaments. An excellent resource has been developed by the Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation. This tool helps you give thought to your own temperament, the temperament of the children in your program, and tips to foster the unique development of each child. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) also has great information on temperament and why it is our job to adjust with strategies that make for a positive experience for each child in our program.
What have been your experiences with children who have a very different temperament than your own? How can we share this information with parents who are normally quiet and shy when they share with us their frustration because their child is constantly loud and making noise? What can we say to very social, more “out-going” parents who are troubled because their shy child won’t hug family members at gatherings?