Action or Words
When action is more effective than words
Many 3-6 year olds are still unable to control emotions and pace themselves. When over excited they can get themselves into a spin without knowing how to stop it. It has been our experience that even using language can be too much at some point.
Emotions shoot up and through their body like a lightning bold and are expressed immediately, e.g. when something doesn’t work, it may get thrown. If a door doesn’t open, it will be kicked.
When the child feels happy, he may literally run around in circles. This type of behaviour is more apparent in boys than in girls. The brain is still in the process of constructing the reasoning part and adults can influence how this pathway is being constructed.
The point is that the child has as yet no means of controlling himself unless he is helped how to express strong feelings appropriately. Reprimanding a child verbally across the room does nothing or may even make matters worse.
Here is one strategy to calm a child who is still learning how to inhibit himself:
• Walk up calmly.
• Take him by the hand gently, but firmly, don’t let go.
• Start any Practical Life Activity you can think of, e.g. walk him calmly to the kitchen, give him a little bucket in his hands and demonstrate how to hold it under the tap, fill it with water and, using a small scoop, begin to water the plants.
• The circuit breaker is the surprise element, because the child doesn’t know what you’re going to do and this triggers his curiosity. Followed up with an action that involves using one’s hands allows the focus to change and calms the person as a result.
• When the child responds to you, which is evident from his behaviour, finish the action you have started together, speak in gentle voice and return to the activity he got upset about.
• Consider the problem (demonstrate this in body language and facial expression) then discuss how best to solve it. Engage the child in this conversation and remember that, what he sees you do is what he will remember. Keep focused on the action (no lecturing or moralizing!)
• Finish by saying: “Whenever you feel upset because something doesn’t work, go and water the plants or come and tell me and we’ll figure it out together.”
• You will have to repeat the strategy when similar situations crop up, but be patient, it’s worth the effort.