Reply To: Meltdowns in class

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With K-2nd graders – I tell them “this does not mean that you are a bad kid or you are not smart. It’s just a game! As soon as everyone has a turn, we’ll all go back and play something else.” I want you to sit quietly and calm down/relax. I have a pillow hooked onto the wall with 3M hooks; I offer this to kids at such moments. Kids (well human beings) want so badly tobe accepted that sometimes such games cause them to feel bad about themselves. Just reassure them that they are still a good kid! ….. With bigger kids who won’t respond / refuse to talk to me, I give them a piece of paper and ask them to write down what made them upset and why. If they don’t do this, I offer them a pillow and encourage them to relax. They usually come around. Ignoring them at a time like this is perfectly appropriate.

You are absolutely doing the right thing taking time to speak to the child, but I recommend not talking to an upset child in front of the class. This may embarrass them or make them uncomfortable, especially if they need to tell you about another student being rude to them. If it’s doable, have the class restart the game while you walk a few steps away and talk to the upset student. If you prefer to monitor the game, have the class stop and take the student into the hall to talk: put the student behind the wall or door while you stand in the doorway to watch the class.

When a child reports that the group / some students are talking about him/her because s/he broke a rule, stop the game. Make clear that you are disappointed at this report and want to make some things clear: We are human beings and every one of us makes mistakes every day. They have no right to tease someone for one mistake made, especially during an activity which is supposed to be fun. Find out who did it (I threaten to get security if the kids who did it don’t admit to doing it). Then have them apologize. If they refuse ask them to write a letter of apology to the person. Leave a few seconds of silence in between sentences for drama and to let your message sink in. If this continues, threaten to stop the game and have constant wrong-doers write the classroom rules.

Yesterday I had a 5th grade student refuse to dance with his class due to some mild bullying that happened earlier in the day. He sat behind my piano curled up, so I knew it was not simply a non-desire to dance. I verified with him that the teacher was informed and it was handled, then I encouraged him to let it go. He insisted that the incident bothered him and he could not let it go. I paused a moment before recalling a quote from Elanor Rosevelt: “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I explained to him who she was and what it meant. I told him to take a minute and think about what that means. …. This is one way of handling such situations. Every kid is different, remember!