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Children sit next to each other on a classroom carpet. One child has her hand extended, thumb raised.


Paulette Maggiacomo

Paulette Maggiacomo

September 3, 2020

You did it, you completed the first week of the new school year while in the middle of a pandemic! You navigated CDC guidelines to keep your children, your classroom, your outdoor areas, and most importantly, yourself, healthy and safe. If there were moments of “oops”, I hope you allowed yourself the grace that you would give to others. Perfectionism during a pandemic is not the goal – helping children navigate during this time using their self-regulation skills should be your goal.

Dayna Abraham was a presenter at the virtual conference Transforming Challenging Behavior 2020. She stressed the importance of taking the time to set the culture in your classroom that empowers your children to self-regulate and to show empathy towards those who are struggling. The time you put into it now will make all of the difference down the road.

In order for this to occur, there must be a sense of connection between you and the children, and the children with each other. An opportune time to build this connection is during your circle time each day where you could discuss struggles that might occur during the day. Dayna presented the following scenario:

  1. I know that we are all learning to share – pinpoint a struggle

  2. Sometimes that can make us really angry – identify the emotion

  3. What can we do when we start to feel that way – empowers the children to come up with ideas

She front-loaded the class in order to prevent meltdowns and/or tantrums. Imagine the impact this can have on your classroom!

Next, Dayna provided some wonderful insight illustrating to me that I had been going about handling this type of incident the wrong way. Let’s say that two or three children are having struggles at the same time in different parts of the classroom. Her suggestion is to go to the child who is in the least of their fight, flight, or freeze state. This is the child who is the least stressed and/or overwhelmed. Assist them first. Then go to the child who is struggling the most so you can put all of your calm, focus and attention on that child. You now have the ability to sit, breathe, and model for them.

Often it is easy for us to jump to conclusions as to why a certain behavior is happening. I am sure there have been times when you have thought, “Oh, he/she is trying to push my buttons”, or “Here we go again”, or “I am getting really tired of this child’s behavior.” This is when we need to put on our detective hat to find out what is the root of this behavior. Dayna said that it is like peeling an onion one layer at a time. She suggested asking the “Four W’s”: Who, What, When, and Where. Also ask yourself if the child’s four basic needs are being met: Food, Sleep, Water, and Safety. By doing so you can gain insight and understanding as to the source of the behavior. By being Jessica Fletcher, Nancy Drew, or Veronica Mars you can be that person who empowers your children to learn how to self-regulate!

Please remember that we can’t do this without you. Make it a priority to find time each day to do something just for you.

As always, until next time, I wish you well,


A teacher sits with preschool children at a table in a classroom.
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