Mondays...oh the joy of Mondays. I am always excited about beginning a new week...new possibilities, new skills present themselves, new challenges to reflect on. But, Mondays are, and always have been, a challenge in the daycare/preschool world. Children have usually been out of their routine for two full days, living large and partying hard with Mom and Dad, squeezing every moment of together time out of these precious couple of days (my family included!). Then Monday happens! Alarms go off and tired children muddle back in through countless doors of schools, home, preschools, and daycares.
I have always heard teachers and caregivers lament alike. The excitement, anticipation, and dread of the Monday blues. It is the day the tantrums are the loudest, the wills are strongest, and self-regulation the lowest. But, on this particular Monday, it seemed that we had a coup' on all fronts. By 4:00 in the afternoon, this preschool teacher needed a 42 minute time-out. Normally, I would not be quite so proud of my age, but this day, I wore it with a badge and a smile!
#5 on my list of "5 Tear Tamers" is #5- Take An Adult Time-Out! Enjoy every minute! Lie about your age...it's o.k. to take a moment to breath, drink a cup of coffee, read a blog and let another take over for a moment for a well-deserved break. Everyone will be happier for it!
5 Tear Tamers for Pre-k
Sleep deprivation is the enemy of self-regulation for a preschool child. Just think about how well we as adults control our mouths, our actions, or our impulses when WE are on a 80 hour work week. Now assign that to your average 3 year old who spends from 7am to 6pm at daycare. This is like asking a 3 year old to function happily, at all time,s during their 55 hour "work week"...recipe for disaster. I have seen this over and over again (and been guilty of it as well). In an attempt to spend some extra "family time" with my children, I allow them to stay up too late, or fall asleep in front of their favorite show. Yes, they look adorable resting there on the couch. Yes, I did enjoy the extra 30 minutes of peace and maybe squeezed out a few extra blog lines with my 3 year old comfortably snuggling me during "one more episode" of Daniel Tiger. But, the evidence of her lack of self-regulation is punishment enough for my lack of discipline in keeping with a night-time routine. When she barks the loudest about bedtime, I know the deepest that it is sleep she truly needs.
I have seen this repeatedly with the children in my care as well. Naptime is most difficult on Mondays. They are exhausted and settling them down into nap is most extreme. It is the day (and moment) filled with the loudest tantrums, the longest cries, the most intense stand on the mountain of "NO, I NOT GONNA'!" Soooo...we read a little longer...sing another song...and when it comes right down to it, I sit down beside the ones wiggling the most until they settle down to sleep.
Appropriate sleep is so helpful to the preschool teacher and to the preschooler. It allows us to move on with lesson plans, engage in play, and even be able to enjoy meal times more. Have you ever tried to sit an overly tired 2.5 year old down to eat? It just doesn't happen. So...off they go, banana in one hand, sippy cup in the other to smush and smear that little yellow boat into the kitchen center microwave. They simply cannot sit down to eat, thereby compounding the issue of exhaustion with hunger. As an in-home provider I have the freedom to allow them to toddle around with snack in hand in an attempt to at least get them to eat SOMETHING...but, the difference in a rested 2.5 year old and a non-rested one is like a butterfly flitting around inspecting its environment vs. a monster-truck-rally demolition-derby
So, I am pleading with you, putting your children to bed at night before they are a fit of tears is the kindest, most loving thing you can do to ensure their following day is a success!
Diversion is the greatest parenting/caregiver/teacher trick known to man. Think, "Squirrel!" -Doug the Dog from the movie, "UP!" This is basically what we are looking to do for our little preschoolers when we can sense the tantrum is beginning to build. This is also where a sense of humor for your children and yourself can mean the difference between explosion and entertainment.
Some children are much easier to do this with than others. I have had children in my care that could only be diverted with chocolate (please, no debates about bribing children with food...I know how much better I feel after some chocolate!)
Diversion is actually an act of well-planned intent on the part of the caregiver. You KNOW a tantrum is inevitable in the day of a toddler/preschool child. It is simply a part of the learning process. There WILL be a moment of frustration/disappointment/skill vs. will/exhaustions/hunger/etc., that WILL produce the dreaded screaming-till-we-all-turn-blue moment. Plan for it in your day...allow for it. Simply know that this is normal, this is a sign of development, progress, and the will to continue along the path chosen for oneself (VITAL skill for adults), and be o.k. with it. Everyone in the history of parenthood has experienced at least one of these. You are not alone. It is o.k. Let people stare, they are just admiring your beautiful child... (it really is all perception, right?!)
So, since we have established it can and should be planned for, make a list of things that speak to YOUR child. Think about it...play-dough, glitter tubes, slime, a favorite movie, a snack (many tantrums are brought on by hunger), a couch and a favorite book, a treasured doll/toy/blankie. Sometimes, despite the most well-made plans, diversion will fail.
Refer back to numbers #1, #3, #4, and #5 :)
#3.- Run, Laugh, Play, Dance
When a child is raging (or about to do so) a GREAT temper tamer is to bust a move! Yes, this one isn't a bit difficult in the grocery store...but well worth it. Make up an animal race, game of tag, hide and seek, get outside, turn up the tunes and wiggle/giggle and bounce the blues away.
When my little group of preschool kiddos are DONE (in a figurative sense) with play dough, painting, writing, story time, etc., and are having trouble with their social/emotional skills, a great way to end the fighting and tantrums is an organized game of animal races. We start at one end of the fence and we race like a bunny, or a turtle, or a horse. It gets their bodies moving and their focus on getting to the end of the race instead of being focused on one another. When socialization is going awry, get those bodies organized and MOVING!! You will find that redirecting their focus on something like "making it to the finish line "will keep their focus off "getting that toy away from Shelly." (Hey..I know some adults that need to do that!! HA!!!)
Once all those great endorphins kick in from all the dancing, wiggling, running, and good ole' exercise the serotonin level begin to balance and their mood will shift dramatically.
In a fun article from Alex Korb, Ph.D., Boosting Your Serotonin Activity, he mentions the benefits not only of exercise in boosting serotonin, but also yoga, message (including infant), thinking about happy things, and the value of sunlight. ALL these have a miraculous effect on preschool age children. I have often done downward dog and sun salutations, which are fun and easy for preschoolers to mimick. They almost immediately stop the temper and begin to mimick me, asking questions, giggling, and breathing just like Ms. Donna.
The biggest trick is remembering to redirect, rather than respond to the tantrum.
#4 - Snuggle, Hug, Touch Away a Tantrum
Alex Korb's, Ph.D., Boosting Your Serotonin Activity brings up an interesting point about message and serotonin which may explain why, in my experience, snuggles, hugs, and touch can often tame the tantrum. He states, "Several studies have demonstrated the benefits of massage in boosting serotonin. It's not clear to me whether it is massage in particular, or simply physical human contact..." Have you ever met a happy hermit? I haven't... We were built for human touch, contact, comfort, and we hunger for it. Our brains are wired to need contact to grow and thrive.
Technology cannot replace human interaction. It is a false filler, kind of like filling up your belly with processed junk foods. It will only satisfy for the moment, but the urge comes back even stronger since the body has not recieved the nutrition is needed to function. Our urge for human contact comes back stronger when we only receive interaction through technology. It is why, I believe, we are seeing such an increase in stronger/longer/wilder tantrums. Often children do not know why they are acting out, it is simply a "nuero" response to an unmet need.
#5. Take An Adult Time-Out!
Now that's a happy lady! A wonderful family of mine and friend bought me this coaster after a series of challenging days. I stilll have it. It reminds me to take some time for Momma!
In the middle of the chaos it's so easy to just beat myself up for not "having it all together." But seriously?? I have yet to meet anyone, and then to REALLY get to know them that "has it all together."
That is an illusion for those who enjoy regret with a side of guilt. It is a sure way to begin hating yourself and your life.
Take a minute to go potty, walk to the mail box, put Pandora on the headphones. The children will thank you for it. You will be better for it, and everyone will be just fine...
Life is made of moments...
"There isn't anything more full of hope, joy and peace than a child's smile... It captures the mundane and makes it extraordinary." - LaDonna Woolsey
I am a Mother Goose Time Blogger. I decided to become one after trying their products because I they are comprehensive and serve my mixed age group well. I do receive products to review from Mother Goose Time and do so with my own honest and thorough opinions. For more information, please contact me at Ladonna@woolseyacademy.com