“Crash!! Tinkle tinkle! Gasp - everyone stopped still. The plate glass door to the kindergarten was in a million pieces all over the floor; in the middle of this was a small wooden ladder that the children used with their outdoor block buildings. Brendan stood nearby, glaring at me. "I'm bery, bery cwoss!" he shouted, then dissolved into tears.
All too often, the adult reaction is to the actual display of anger such as this, and a perceived need for discipline in response to this act of vandalism, without considering the underlying cause of the anger or the need to help the child to cope with these feelings in more socially acceptable ways. Brendan had reached the end of his patience, his single mother had gone out bowling the previous evening and he had stayed at a neighbor's home, where he ‘had to sleep on the couch with only one warm blanket.’ To add further insult, his mum had used the money in his piggy bank to finance her outing. Brendan was not pleased.”
So begins an article by Marie D. Hammer that forms the basis of an Out of the Box Training Kit, “I am Bery, Bery Cwoss – Understanding Anger of Children.” The author urges early educators and administrators to respond to children’s anger with understanding, care and skill.
Likewise, in an article on the Psych Central website, author Marian Marion, Ph.D., urges educators to “create a safe emotional climate. A healthy early childhood setting permits children to acknowledge all feelings, pleasant and unpleasant, and does not shame anger. Healthy classroom systems have clear, firm, and flexible boundaries.”
Source: “Helping Children Deal with Anger,” by Marian Marion, PhD., psychcentral.org. May 15, 2019
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The beginning was a powerful reminder to reflect on our interactions with our youngest children who are still learning emotions and reactions. I'm concerned that our field has embraced this concept as we now throw families out with the bathwater. Sometimes these are just lagging skills--as some children have lagging physical or cognitive skills--so some children have lagging social/emotional skills. I've never heard someone say "he isn't walking yet. I wonder what's going on at home."
Lagging social/emotional skills provide an opportunity to work with the child and the family on how to foster development. A child can struggle with emotions without it being mom's fault for going bowling or dad's fault for having a new girlfriend. I hear too much of this in the field; accepting the child because the family is getting in the way. Sometimes it's just a lagging skill and fostering development is what we do.
When we end the blame game, we will focus on fostering development.