Sunday, October 23, 2011

Poor Behavior: What To Do: 3rd in Series

We’ve all witnessed a child throwing a temper tantrum: screaming, hitting, biting, trying to escape under a table, or sobbing uncontrollably because they did not get their way. They are angry and frustrated. As their anger increases, it becomes more difficult for an adult to remain in control. But the adult must remember that this is a young child who does not have the life experiences and learning that have hopefully been acquired before giving birth or becoming a teacher.

What to Do about Hitting, Kicking, Scratching, Biting, Temper Tantrums

The adult must state the rules—which should already have been established. “I cannot let you hit or hurt others.” Kneel down and talk to the child directly while looking into their eyes, holding the child if necessary. Do not waste your breath talking, scolding, or explaining when children are not really listening. Lead the child to an appropriate setting or behavior. If your child throws a temper tantrum in a store, lead them out of the store or hold them until they gain control. If you are a teacher, stay nearby and remain firm: No hurting is allowed. 

Use your arms to hold the child. Children will benefit by your control and by your understanding, will finish the outbreak, and will be all right. The child will remember that you are not the enemy and that you have ways to help them establish self-control. When you hold, rather than hit, you are protecting as well as controlling a child. 

Try and understand why the child is behaving inappropriately as you settle them down. Are they tired, hungry, scared, excited, had too much sugar, or experiencing instability at home? When they are ready to listen, speak to the child kindly, but with authority and direction about how they should behave. 

Demonstrate how to behave. You have to show children how to act, not how not to act. Keep your emotions under control. Here are some ways:
  • Take a deep breath, hold it, then let it out. Repeat this several times as your body relaxes. If you are in a classroom, tell all the children to “Breathe in… Hold it… Let it go.”
  • Say a mantra inside your head: “I’m the adult. I’m the role model. I’m in control.”
  • Focus on staying in control and on being an example of good behavior.
  • Count to ten. This saying has been around a long time. It must work.
  • Think about why the child is acting this way. If you don’t know, try and find out when the episode has subsided. Knowing the reason may give you those extra seconds of patience that is needed before you lose it too.

    Do not slap or spank a child: When adults hit children to get them to mind, too much has already gone wrong and the discipline has broken down. We know a big person should not hit a smaller person. Adults must set the example for good behavior. Therefore, do not spit when you want a child to stop spitting; do not yell when you want a child to stop yelling; and do not hit when you want a child to stop hitting. Years of emotional scarring and damage can result when a child is mistreated by an adult.

    I have seen children get off the school bus with suckers and sugar sticks in their mouths, bragging that this is their breakfast. I've had numerous children tell me they are hungry when they have just arrived in the classroom. After mentioning to parents that their child is coming to school hungry, I have had the them tell me that the child does not want breakfast because they are too tired to eat, or they are too rushed to get to school.

    It is important to keep communicating to the parents that children need a healthy breakfast and a good night’s sleep for a productive school day. Ideally, kindergartners should be in bed before 8:00 with a parent reading a book to them. Communicate to parents with telephone calls, emails, newsletters, notes home in backpack that need a signature, and parent/teacher conferences. Remember to document poor behavior in case the child does not “mature” out of it.

    Young children are impulsive and learn self-control as they mature. We must lead children to learn inner control for their happiness and so that they will become responsible, productive, happy members of our society. Everyone is ultimately responsible for their behavior. Remember to lavishly praise a child for good behavior.

    You might be interested in my other posts in this Discipline Series:


    1. Good tips on handling temper tantrums in the classroom. One thing that works in my classroom is the cozy corner with a big soft pillow. We all understand that things happen that make us all angry and we need to vent. Students are allowed to go to the cozy corner and punch or throw the big soft pillow. The student experiencing the temper tantrum doesn't immediately go to the big pillow but he/she is guided and reminded to head that way. Less destruction in the room and to himself and others.

    2. That's a wonderful example. And it takes less time away from the episode when a child knows they have a place to vent. I hope parents use this idea at home too. Thank you!

    3. Great tips! For my children holding them in my arms while they are throwing a fit usually backfires. My boys are not afraid of biting Mom and Dad if we try to restrain them. Time-outs work the best for my kids. But I believe that every child is different and respond to discipline differently.

    4. Time out is sometimes the best consequence giving the child time to relax and think - and the adult time to cool off. Thanks for visiting!

    5. My daughter gets even angrier if I hold her when she's upset. (I know the feeling well- I do not like being touched when I'm angry, either, so I completely relate and also respect it.) But I think it's a valid point for a lot of children because everyone is different.
      I am really enjoying your series, and I couldn't agree more with your points! Thank you so much for posting these articles to give parents more information on constructive discipline.

    6. I live Emma bomback!!! And I will definitely try to always remember that!!

    7. My 21 month old has been throwing tantrums when he wants me to hold him and I can't (I'm making dinner or about to get in the shower or feeding the little boy I watch). I'm home with him all the time and I give him a lot of attention so I don't think it's because he needs more attention. What do you suggest I do when he does this? Today he screamed for an hour because of this and I felt bad but also felt like giving in would make the problem worse.


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