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responding to tantrums in the classroom

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  • responding to tantrums in the classroom

    Hello there,

    I am a Montessori Infant/Toddler teacher, and just finished my first week in a new school with 15 children between 15 monthes and 2.5 years. I find myself in a situation of working with several new collegues who often respond to the children in ways that I find disturbing.

    I am currently involved in really exploring how to respond to tantrums and intensive upset in a classroom/childcare environment, which is really very different that being one on one with a child at home. We have one little boy who melts down by throwing himself on the floor hitting and kicking any adult who tries to hold or comfort him with touch, and screams intensely. The response of my fellow teachers is to tell him very sternly in angry voices "that's totally inappropriate to scream like that in my classroom" and to place him in a our little blue arm chiar until he has calmed down, at times, physically standing over him in the chair so that he is contained there, saying things like "no, you have to be calm".

    I find myself to be greatly disturbed by this type of response, and yet feel that there is some pressure to "be in control" of the classroom. It seems as though tantrums are viewed as a sign that the teacher is not "in control" and therefore they must be shut down as soon as possible. When a child goes so beyond like this, distraction does not seem possible, especially when he stiffenes and arches his back when held or picked up. My impulse is to simply get down on the ground with him, and "hold space" for him, talking calmly and gently with reassurance. But this would most likely mean that the tantrum and screaming would last longer than if forcibly shut down. With 14 other kids in the room, this seems to pose a challenge....

    I hope soemone out there has experience as a Motnessori toddler teacher or day care provider who is bringing an AP appraoch into their classroom or center.....I would love some help/advise!!!!! To be honest, I feel very alone and greatly judged by my colleages who seem to think I "don't take action" when a child tantrums.

    Thank you!!!!

    Montessorian.

  • #2
    i don't have a lot of time to respond, but i teach in a montessori school and what you describe seems completely inappropriate in an M. setting. directresses are not supposed to "take control" but rather "guide". can you connect w/any M. teachers in your area? do you have M. training?

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    • #3
      I admit that when I hear of Montessori infant/toddler programs I am confused. Didn't he directly speak towards kids not being ready for formal schooling until older?

      Beyond that, if we simply speak of managing a child care situation I think a lot would depend on the staff/student ratio, stated center 'mission' and intention towards long term tantrum reaction.....is ANY strong feeling squished ASAP?

      If I was sending my child to a Montessori program, at any age, I would EXPECT more gentle guidance from teachers NOT what you describe your co-workers do. What do the parents expect?

      More info please!

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      • #4
        What is the tantrum about? Kids don't just have tantrums for no reason. When he's throwing a tantrum you should take action to meet whatever needs aren't being met. This could be a response to missing his parents, in which case the solution is for him to not be in school but rather with them. If that's the case, I'd call his parents and tell him he's not ready for school yet.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by montessorian View Post
          I find myself to be greatly disturbed by this type of response, and yet feel that there is some pressure to "be in control" of the classroom.... My impulse is to simply get down on the ground with him, and "hold space" for him, talking calmly and gently with reassurance. But this would most likely mean that the tantrum and screaming would last longer than if forcibly shut down.
          I think your instincts are correct. I think that by following your instincts and providing a loving and nurturing space for the child, you DO remain "in control" and are modeling excellent behavior for the other students.

          Reacting out of anger or fear in the way you described the other teachers is not demonstrating "control" -- it's demonstrating a fear- or anger-based reaction.

          Thank you for standing up for respectful treatment of children.

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          • #6
            AP classroom

            I am a director of a childcare center and have worked in the field for almost 10 years. I have recently been exploring AP for myself and my unborn child. I had a "lightbulb" moment the other day when I thought, why aren't we exploring how AP could work in a classroom setting?

            Your description of your coworkers is very similar to what I have seen (unfortunately) in my classrooms. I have been trying to talk with the teachers/caregivers, as well as the parents, about how to use AP concepts to tackle issues like tantrums or aggression.

            There is a 3 step process that I have been working with (I did lots of research on this!) which involves 1. redirection/intervention, 2. reminder, and 3. reconnection.

            For example, a child who is hitting... 1. intervene by gently taking the hurting hands in yours, 2. remind him of the "rules" or expectation..."hitting hurts" and finally 3. reconnect with his need by offering emapathy and asking him to identify his feelings..."are you frustrated?". The idea is that, as mentioned before, children act in a way that solicits help from adults (they are totally dependent on us to meet their needs) and their behavior is trying to tell us something. If we can identify their underlying need and respond in a way that addresses that need we could potentially see longer-term sucess/behavior change. I like this approach because although we want the hitting to stop right now, we also want to teach the child not to do it again... right?

            Another thing that I think is important to remember is that consequences don't have to be punitive/punishment oriented in order to be effective. Changing the way we think about a "consequence" is helpful...a consequence is the way in which we respond to children and although it takes longer, this step is crucial if we want children (our own or those in our classrooms) to actually LEARN something from the behavior.

            Anyway, I have only begun to explore this recently and am hoping to do more research in this area for sure. I'm glad there are others out there who are thinking like this and I'd love to hear more about this topic as well!

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