Teachers, what do you do when your sweet little doe-eyed angels morph into screaming, crying, out-of-control tornadoes? Enter the dreaded temper tantrum. It’s loud, obnoxious and can turn any classroom into a rioting carnival. Heaven knows, it can happen in the blink of an eye and make any newbie or veteran teacher want to cry.
Tired Teachers, Gather ‘Round!
From frustration to hunger, jealousy to exhaustion, temper tantrums are triggered by a great many things. The sad truth is, they’re inevitable and are simply an age-appropriate phase that is passing through. Nonetheless, educators can certainly stay in control of their classroom with these ten excellent tips for dealing with tantrums. Be prepared for your colorful set of classroom meltdowns the next time they come a knock’in ’round your classroom door.
10 Tough Tantrum-Wrangling Techniques
Did you know that your actions before AND after a tantrum can make a world of difference as well? Believe it or not, it’s not just about how you handle a crisis in the moment. Check out these steps on how to approach tantrums, before, during and after they occur.
THE PRE-MELTDOWN PHASE:
Certain techniques can be implemented in the classroom to reduce the risk of a meltdown taking place.
1) Let’s Talk About Emotions
Talk to kids frequently about their feelings and how they are connected to tantrums. Go over the fact that everyone, including adults and even teachers, get upset from time to time. Consider role-playing games so children have the opportunity to really think about how they can handle their emotions when they get frustrated or upset, in a positive manner.
2) Get to Know Your Students
Take the time to chat with your students about what makes them happy or sad, as well as their likes and dislikes. This will give you an idea of what triggers them to become upset. This will also be the key to recognizing if/when a tantrum may be looming.
3) Keep an Eye on Potential Tornadoes
Many tantrums can be prevented once you know what a child’s possible triggers are. By keeping a close eye on how kids are doing throughout the day, teachers can gauge if a child is hungry, tired or bored, thus keeping ahead of any tantrum tornadoes. By recognizing the signs, teachers will be able to offer a child what they may need before the meltdown starts.
4) Become a Master Distractor
If you see a child on the verge of a tantrum, distract them with a book or a toy. Redirecting a child’s attention away from the negative emotions of a meltdown can help them calm down before it even begins. Something as surprisingly simple as asking them how they feel can divert their course.
THE EYE-OF-THE-HURRICANE PHASE:
Ah, oh. It’s too late. IT HAS BEGUN! What should you do when disaster strikes? Take a deep breath, and:
5) Step Back; it Might be a Doozy:
Flailing arms, kicking feet and punching fists often come for the tantrum ride, so, please, mind the safety zones and give tantrums lots of space. Prevent any accidents by moving an upset child away from areas with sharp corners or hard edges. Encourage the other children to work on quiet activities, like reading or drawing, in a different area of the classroom.
6) Keep it Calm, Keep it Cool:
Losing your temper is the worst thing you can do during a tantrum. Try to remember that these things are normal for young kids. Therefore, their behavior, no matter how UN-FUN it may seem, is indeed age-appropriate. Tantrums help children work through their emotions, release anxiety and stress, and come to an internal resolution.
7) Provide Kids with a Calming Place
Remove any frustrated or overstimulated children from their environment and provide them with a calming place where they can work through their feelings without becoming even more upset. Designate a calm area, or Quiet Zone, where kids know they can go and Zen-out when needed.
8) Don’t Ignore it; Talk it Out:
Encourage your kids to talk through their problems with a friend, with their classmates, or with you. As a teacher, don’t overshadow them. Make sure to get down to their eye-level and let them know that you understand how they feel. If they talk to you, do respond, but do not attempt a dialogue if they are not in a place where they wish to talk. Your most important role as a teacher is to listen.
THE THANK-GOD-THAT’S-OVER PHASE:
Congratulations. You’ve survived the worst of it all. Now, let’s get back to business.
9) Don’t Act Like the Elephant in the Room Ain’t There:
Talking about what just happened in the classroom may not be your first instinct as a teacher, and yet, it’s best to help children understand how to work through their feelings.
10) Encourage Empathy in the Classroom
All kids need to understand that their classmates may have trouble with certain things, like sharing or transitioning from one activity to another. You can encourage empathy in the classroom by having regular, honest, heart-to-heart conversations about why “we feel the way we do.” Children will then be in a position to understand how their friend(s) feel when they have a tantrum. Empathetic children will be able to be kind, helpful and respectful in times of tantrums.