Temper tantrums can be difficult to deal with for everyone involved. Many times children are told to “Stop crying,” or “You’re okay,” when they are not okay. Adults tend to simply want these big emotions to stop, which is very understandable. It can feel extremely uncomfortable to be around anyone who is in a not-so-great mood. Therefore it is important for caregivers in an early childhood classroom to help children by supporting and teaching them about emotions, especially the not-so-fun ones.
Here are five steps that can help children—and teachers—through a temper tantrum:
- Be compassionate and be there for the child. Let the child know that you understand that they are upset and that you want to help them. We have all been frustrated and angry enough that we want to scream, grit our teeth, or maybe even throw something across the room. As adults, we sometimes still have a hard time dealing with disappointment or staying calm when something isn’t going our way. Why would we expect children to be so?
- Label the emotion behind the tantrum. Typically when children are in the midst of a temper tantrum they are ANGRY. Not sad, but full on angry. They may also be feeling disappointed, frustrated, and often times misunderstood. This is okay! Help them by labeling what they may be feeling: “I can see that you are angry. You really want that toy.”
- Validate their feelings. Let them know you understand.
“It is really hard to wait your turn. The sensory table is a lot of fun. Would you like to ____ while you wait?” Pick a toy or activity that the child likes to do.
- Help them learn how to express themselves. It is easy to sit back as a child expresses emotions such as happiness, excitement, and contentment. It is harder when they are feeling irritated, sad, and just plain mad! How can you help children safely express their “negative” emotions? What can they say or do to deal with these big feelings? When they are happy, children laugh. We do not stop them from laughing. It is okay for a child to cry when they are sad. When they are excited, children may jump up and down. How can we make it okay for a child to safely throw something when they are angry? How can we help them feel successful no matter what they may be feeling?
- Let it be. Realize that you do not have to stop the temper tantrum. Sometimes children just need time. When children know they are in a safe, loving environment, they will learn how to calm down. They will know that you will be there for them. This is when the real magic will happen.
Young children feel all the same emotions that adults feel but they do not know what those emotions are actually called. They don’t know how to say “I am angry” or “I am getting frustrated!” They feel the emotion but it is up to adults to teach them about feelings and emotions and what is socially acceptable. We all feel emotions, whether they are “positive or negative,” and it is how we deal with those emotions that help us to be socially successful. After all, who doesn’t want children to be successful?