Sometimes a child just needs quiet in the safety of an understanding adult's arms.
Recently, at school a child became overwhelmed and upset. I met her as she was being taken out of the classroom. I tried reading her a story - she read too - at the top of her voice!!!! I tried singing - she sang too - at the top of her voice!!! Then i said: Do you want a cuddle? And she eased herself onto my knee and snuggled in. We sat quietly. Her snuggling. Me sometimes rocking a little, sometimes not. Both of us getting quieter and quieter. And she calmed. So after 10 minutes when it was snack time, she was ready to go back into class on her own, quietly.
How often do we try to distract children from their emotions, rather than just allowing and being quiet.
Children are so open with feelings. They feel, it is expressed in their face or vocalization. and then that feeling goes and another arrives.
They bounce around with joy.
They put out their bottom lip.
They don't analyse.
At some stage they start to think about the feelings. They learn to blame other people for their feelings, or they blame the situation. How do they learn this? Do we teach them?
What do we model to our children about feelings?
When your child is happy - like when they are boisterously happy, do you try and calm them down. are you scared of the intensity of the happiness? Are you teaching them that it is wrong to feel really happy (or to express it)
When they are sad or hurt do you let them cry it out and be noisy about it, or do you try and stop their feeling? Wanting them to be quiet or wanting them to not be feeling that?
Think about what you are teaching children. When they are young, children feel feelings and let them go naturally. As they grow, something changes.
A child's behaviour and actions are an expression of what s/he is feeling. Children feel emotions immediately and often very visibly. When a child is not particualrly verbal or is non-verbal, treat their behaviour as communication. If a child can't say what is going on for them, then they will express this physically. Even when a child can verbalise ideas and requests usually, often it comes out easier in actions.
If s/he is feeling happy, then s/he may be smiling and bouncing around making happy noises.
If s/he is hitting, s/he may be saying "Go away"......or "Leave me alone"....................or "Stop trying to get me to do something that I don't want to do"...........................or "I'm just so frustrated"....................................or "Get out of my space"..........
If s/he is biting...................... What might s/he be communicating?
If s/he is throwing himself/herself on the floor, what might s/he be communicating?
Ask the questions. And don't panic. Children do do things that we don't want them to. Some people feel embarrassed by their children's behaviour. Remember your child really wants to communicate - to you, to others, to the world. And they deserve to be heard. So ask the questions and provide the words for what they are communicating in actions.
Just lately it has occurred to me that saying "No hitting" is the same as saying "Don't hit". You will have heard that children often don't hear the "Don't" when we use that word, partly because we haven't got their attention first. You see, they are intent on doing whatever they are doing, so of course they don't hear the first word. So therefore hearing the word hitting, reinforces the idea of doing hitting, not of stopping it. That is the word they hear.
So if we apply this reasoning to "No hitting", is it not the same?
So I suggest that instead of using the word of the action we want them to stop, that we use the word of the action we want them to do. It could be "Stop". Better still, put their name in front, so that we gain their attention first. (Except that sometimes it is imperative that the child stops right then - the child will hear this in your voice tone even without their name first.
Think of the confusion a child may feel when s/he hears "...... hitting" and yet the adults are cross or seemingly wanting something else to happen........but what?? How is the child supposed to know what action the adult is wanting. Help your child focus on the behaviour you want by using the words that describe that behaviour..
The other part to consider is that to stop mid stride in an action, is difficult, and more especially when there is no instruction given about what to do. How does one change one's plan in the middle? Unless there is verbal support to know what to do.