Last month I wrote about steps to end temper tantrums. In step number five, I mention that “When children know they are in a safe, loving environment, they will learn how to calm down. They will know you will be there for them. This is when the real magic will happen.” What do you think that real magic is? Is it enough for a child to know what emotion he or she is feeling? What do children do with the knowledge that they were angry or frustrated? How do we help them understand why that feeling occurred in the first place? The why behind the feeling is how we help children learn what they can do the next time a child might take their toy or react to a situation calmly and say, “I don’t want to join group time. I want to keep building with blocks.” Whether it’s a choice for that child to continue building or not, all children should feel safe and capable enough to express themselves through words.
As children learn about their emotions and the “why” behind them, they are more likely to gain confidence in their ability to express their feelings. They can learn how to negotiate and work with their peers to solve problems. They can also learn to know that if they are frustrated they can ask for help. If they are angry they will have the skills to use words or stomp their feet rather than hit or kick another person.
This doesn’t happen overnight. Children need A LOT of practice along with consistency, empathy and compassion from adults as they learn these new skills. This process starts from the earliest days of life. Teachers have to meet children where they are developmentally and support what they may need in that moment. Teachers can then scaffold their learning and help them to the next step in their social/emotional development. It is also important to remember that children need practice from situation to situation. Just because a child has learned how to say, “Give my toy back,” in the dramatic play area doesn’t mean they will know what to do or say if a child knocks over their block structure.
The true magic to supporting and helping children to calm down and learn about their feelings and emotions also includes helping them learn what to do with those feelings as they happen. Children have the right to be able to understand why they are feeling they way they are feeling. This support will help children learn how to become socially successful and emotionally secure.
Southwest Ohio ECE providers, do you need support in learning how to teach children about their emotions? Check out these upcoming 4C for Children workshops: