Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dealing with disasters

In the wake of the Joplin tornado I have been asked about how it impacts children's play.  One parent was alarmed that every time her three-year-old played she seemed to include a tornado that would come through and knock down her play setting (dolls, stuffed animals, etc.).  This was very distressing to the parent who thought it was having a continued negative impact on her child. 

In fact what is happening is the child is taking control of the uncontrollable.  By incorporating it into her play she makes sense of it and manipulates it to her advantage.  It helps to take away some of the fear and to gain control of her life.  Where children in Joplin are playing tornado, years ago in Louisiana were playing hurricane and those in violence plagued cities play guns.  This is not saying that parents and teachers should take a hands off approach, but that they should recognize what is happening and have conversations with the child to help them talk through the feelings.  View it as a positive and know there are ways to build off of it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Whining and screaming kids

How do you deal with two and three year olds that whine, cry and scream to get their way? 

This is not really that hard to deal with as long as you have patience, see it as a learning process and model appropriate behaviors.  There are some basic rules.  1.  Do not react emotionally yourself to setbacks.  2.  Respond calmly and with confidence when your child is whining, demanding or melting down.

Here is a simple scenario:  John is a whiner.  He really has been this way ever since he started talking.  He started my class at 22 months and was already capable of going into whine mode for almost anything.  His mother thought it was important to figure out what he wanted as quickly as possible and to provide it, thus ending the whining. 

When I started working with him he would go into his whine and I would just look at him waiting until he would stop.  Then in a calm voice I would say, John, I know you are trying to tell me something but when you tell me that way I can't understand what you are trying to say.  Take a deep breath and tell me again.  John wanted to be heard and wanted his way so he stopped, took a breath and started to tell me again.  Part way through the whine came back.  I said.  John you are telling me something about a toy but I couldn't tell what you wanted for sure so take a deep breath and tell me again.  This time he made it all of the way through (I actually knew what he wanted and understood him the very first time with the whining but I wanted to teach him how to control himself and the manner in which he could get his wants presented.)    I responded, You are letting me know that you wanted to play with the train.  Thank you for letting me know.  Then we went on to see if it was available. 

Within a few weeks the whining had almost disappeared and those times when it came back he could tell by my look that he would have to try again and would often stop himself. The fun part is that I found him using my strategy on other children in the class later that year when they were having a difficult time communicating.

I have used this same strategy with children who are still using a pacifier at 2 - 3 years old (I don't understand what you are saying.  Take out the pacifier and tell me again); with criers, (You are really upset.  When you tell me something while you cry I don't know what you are saying.  Stop crying, take a deep breath and tell me again.)