We have recently had a most challenging child at school: very, very bright, and struggling very hard to self-soothe during adjustments or transitions.  Any transitions at all, including things that the child wanted to do, like get out his lunch and eat a cookie, caused crying.

What I have learned from this child: patience, empathy, respect for hard work, and also, when the child can be calm, it is his brain which does the most to help him.  Not that a lap, or a hug, or a empathetic look or remark does not help him calm down, a lot.  But, ultimately, it is when his mind is engaged, when he is intrigued or fascinated or curious or observant or amused, and his brain is working, that he is the most calm, during turbulent times.

This does not mean that we try to distract him with flashing lights and funny clowns, but calmly demonstrate something intriguing, and sit back.  We model our own enjoyment, and invite.

There has been a lot for me to learn in watching this process unfold.



Sometimes you need a new frame (=context).  A new point of view.  To see things from another angle.

My husband bought me some rain boots for Christmas.  The cute ones with flowers didn’t fit, so I got the leather ones.  Kinda cowboy-ish, but water proof, which is the point.  I love them.  They are great for mowing wet grass, walking on wet playgrounds, all things wet, which, In the mountains, is a lot of the time.  They are really comfy; no blisters, ever.

To me, they look very functional, like leather work gloves, and not fashionable at all.  But, one day, I wore them with a dress.  I wanted to wear the dress, and it was raining.  And I am a preschool teacher, not a model.

And got lots of compliments because: boots are fashionable.  Who knew?  Now I can wear them all the time, with anything.

As usual, this is a metaphor, as I certainly am minimally gifted in fashion.

Reframing, or redefining, is something I find myself doing, or attempting to do, with young children.  With boots, it seemed that, if boots are fashionable, I can wear them with a dress.

In Positive Discipline, we say that children’s “bad behavior” is an attempt at getting real needs met: needs for belonging and connection.  But, because they have not been alive very long, they are not always good at getting their needs met in appropriate ways.  And they, often cannot even express their needs.  So, we need to be the grown-ups (sorry!) and try to see thing from a different angle.  A new frame, or lens.  And maybe from their point of view. 🙂

We cannot change other people, only ourselves. Young children are irrational, often, and cannot explain themselves well, at times, or clearly.  And that is okay; it is one of the things we enjoy about them.  (I asked a 2 year old to repeat something her grandmother told me: “Where did your Yaya say you got those pretty curls?” Answer: “Poopypants.” This falls under : “I am not a performing dog, thanks.”)

So, instead of leaping to conclusions about motivations in young children, some open-ended questions can be very helpful for re-framing.

First, take a deep breath, and try to suspend your reaction for 20 seconds.  Long sigh.

Try these: ” How did that make you feel?” (“Did you like that?”); “Let’s see if we can find something good in this.”; “Would you like to try that again?”; “Is there something you want to ask me?” (in response to a demand; phrased poorly.); “What could you try next time so that this doesn’t happen?”; “I am not available.  I can help you (after you, when you, when I…).”; “THAT is not available; (the baby is using it, she has it). You can ask her to give it to you when she is done.”; “Next time…(I want you to wait until I am done to talk).”; “Say some more …(about what is going on; child is upset); (When child makes a mistake, but was trying) “Thank you for taking a risk.”; “If I were you ( I would walk away, find my pajamas).”; (The words “choose, decide, pick, act” puts the responsibility on the child, where it should be:) “I see you chose to leave your raincoat at home”; “I noticed you decided to let your sister use that first.” “I wonder why you are picking to cry instead of using your words?” “How did you decide to act when she hit you?”; “You decide, or I’ll decide.” (Two choices); “Please make a decision.”; “Thank you for telling me, but this is not a choice/option.” (Response to : “But I don’t WANT to…….”); (I can’t find my shoes) “It sounds like you have a problem to solve.” (said, please, with no sarcasm, but with trust that they can solve it.);(Alternatively) Parent: “I want you to help me solve a problem; I don’t like dirty clothes on the floor in my house.” (again, not said in anger, but in a spirit of shared interest.); “Do you want some help, or do you want more time?” (when there is more time to have!!”); “I don’t like what I just heard.  What is another way to tell me/ask me?”; “Make a picture in your mind.” (visualize how to do something before trying it.); “Touch him gently” (tell child what TO do instead of what NOT to do.): “Walking feet.”;  (When child resists) “Thank you for letting me know you need help; I will help you_______”; (Only ask once, then act, without talking, or simply saying:) “Thank you for letting me know you need help. I will help you (put that away, let go of the baby, give me the scissors, hold my hand in the parking lot.”); “I would love for you to be here, but I need you to stop “whining/crying/complaining….)”; and, many times: “Do you need a hug?” or “I need a hug after that.”

There.  From many, many sources.  And remember, not talking, or attempting to solve, and giving a “Hmmm” might get you to a deeper level.  Sometimes complaining, or crying, or yelling is just an attempt to connect; especially if it has worked before.  Or it may be an invitation to solve a problem themselves “”Where are my shoes?”; “Hmmmm”; “Oh, they are in my room!”

Less jumping to conclusions, less talking, often, more questions.