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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 1, 2021

As you are reading this newsletter you have completed the first month with your new Class, building your Conscious Discipline® skills. Connections are being made, and relationships built. Hopefully you begin each day with a greeting for every child, have posted your visual schedule, started posting visual routines, and have begun your Brain Smart Start which includes your Daily Commitments and Wish Well Board. (If you have any questions on these activities please refer to last month's newsletter in which Susan Roberts so beautifully reviewed these).

While these strategies are important in your classroom management, the key strategy is a choice that you get to     make: Are you willing to choose to see the best in each child? It is easy to do this when a child is behaving, but what about when a child hits, kicks, yells, is defiant, or has a full blown fit. Are you still willing to see through this behavior and realize the Brain State that the child is in and work on strengthening the missing skill or skills needed?

We know that all behavior is a form of communication and it is up to us to teach our children the necessary skills to successfully communicate their needs.

Alex is busy building a tower in the Block Center. Jay walks by kicks the tower down and laughs as he continues walking. Alex uses the only skill he knows and starts crying inconsolably. Our first instinct might be to go to Alex and tell him to stop crying and rebuild the tower, after all, it is no big deal. As you pause by taking your 3 deep breaths, the crying turns to wailing.

When a child is in this state and has no words, the way to help him self-regulate is to simply sit near him and breathe. No words, no lectures, simply be present and breathe with him. Once he makes eye contact with you (it may take some time – teachers often give up because they feel they don’t have the time to waste. I assure that you are not wasting your time. You are letting Alex know that he matters and modeling empathy for the other children to observe) use:

  • Describe 

"You are crying”

  • Notice 

“You seem sad”

  • Acknowledge 

“You did not like it when Jay knocked down your tower”

 “You are safe”

 “Keep breathing”

 “You can handle this"

Alex says, ”I worked so hard and that stupid Jay knocked down my tower and laughed at me. He is not my friend anymore”.

When Alex uses his words you have helped him move up to his Emotional State by acknowledging his feelings and showing him empathy.

At this point he is ready to engage with you and work on solving the problem. A conversation may go something like this:

“You didn’t like it when Jay knocked your tower. It hurt your feelings. You wanted to see how high your tower could go. Let’s practice what you could say to Jay: Repeat after me: 'Jay, I don’t like it when you knock my tower down. Next time, ask to play with me.'

Let’s practice it together. Do you want to go by yourself to tell Jay or do you want me to go with you. Remember to tap Jay on the shoulder, look him in the eye and tell him. Which do you choose?”

Follow the child’s lead.

It takes practice, practice, practice, and more practice to help guide a child to their Executive State. There may even be some oopsmoments along the way. Remember to give yourself and the child grace as you navigate this journey together.

Dr. Becky Bailey always stresses these important points for the adults:

The child should never be in a higher brain state than the adult and always remember that our internal behavior dictates their behavior.

As your school year continues its adventure, remember to take the time to take care of yourself.

Until next time, I wish you well,


An illustration of the brain.
Words that say "Survival State equal seeking safety," "Emotional state equals seeking connection," and "Executive State equals decision making."
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