Every day, many times a day, we remind the children that we are a community, similar to a family. (We are the South Hills family!) That means we take good care of each other, we cheer each other on and are proud of each other. We share, and we are all friends. We help our friends and strive to be good friends who support each other. Yes; there are LOTS of times we feel frustrated, angry, confused, disappointed with each other! That is what happens when people spend a lot of time together, and it is ok to feel those strong feelings! Everyone experiences those strong feelings, no matter the age! BUT, it is important to ‘use your words’ when those feelings arise. We teach the children that they may not know what words to use to express their feelings. But they can all say, “Teacher, I feel upset!” and we promise to come to sit with them, talk through the problem, and teach them the words to use to resolve the problem when they say that.
Parents can certainly do the same with their child. Why do two year olds have temper tantrums? Because their awareness of the world around them is increasing, but they do not yet have sufficient vocabulary to express what they feel or convey what they need/want! As they approach three, the vocabulary is developing and the brain is assisting by permitting the child to retrieve the correct words at the correct time. The neurological process is still being ‘fine tuned’ though. Therefore, when the strong emotions arise, the correct words may not yet automatically follow. Adults can guide their children by providing them with the appropriate vocabulary and gently guiding them on what is expected as a member of their family. For example:
“You seem to feel frustrated because you can’t get that puzzle piece in the right space. Can I help? It is ok to tell me you are frustrated. Sometimes I feel that way too. I was very frustrated when I couldn’t get the peanut butter jar open this morning, remember? Let’s see if I can help you. Next time, maybe you can tell me when you are feeling frustrated. In our family, I/we will help you use your words to tell me/us how you feel, and I hope you will always be comfortable talking to me/us about your feelings. That will make me/us very proud of you.”
During conflicts between children at South Hills, we sit down with the children and talk the conflict through, providing the appropriate vocabulary just the way the above example describes. We always express what the expectations are, and what the appropriate choices are within our community so the children always clearly understand and have continual reinforcement.
Young children have strong emotions and strong behaviors. They rely on the adults in their world to help them manage those strong emotions and behaviors in a positive way. If they learn these appropriate skills at an early age, it will serve them well throughout their lives!
As I told a parent this week as we discussed conflict resolutions, I sometimes view South Hills as a microcosm within the world’s macrocosm. In taking care of this little corner of the world in Erie, PA, I do hope that the children will carry what they learn with them into the world as they grow, with your support and love. What a peaceful world it could be!