Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Anger Management - when working with young children...

When I was told that I had to work with special children, I first confronted my employer that I wasn't properly trained to do so. As an educator, I felt that my time with the children will be more meaningful if I could help them. I didn't know if I could with special needs children. As an employee, I was never given a choice as to whom I had to work with.. nevertheless, I went to work with an open mind.

I didn't realize how challenging it was going to be. Each time I thought the challenges were hard enough, more difficult ones showed up. The fact is that I was not special-needs trained. Due to the environment of the Montessori Method, the children are usually independent and they can take instructions fairly well once adjusted to the routine. However, with some special-needs children they had a mind of their own. I formed many social stories in my mind for the different scenarios that I could pre-empt but still I found myself at a block some times.

For mild special-needs the meltdowns were mallow and the children slightly easier to coax and pacify. But I have had materials thrown at me till I was injured when I was told to work with the more extreme cases. There were some cases that were not declared. 

In the Montessori environment where directresses are encouraged only positive responses when working with children, it seemed that the usual tact and gentle instruction or reminders may not work the same way for special-needs children. Throughout the many engagements with special-needs children of varying types and of different spectrums and also normal children, I learnt one important thing. Whether they are special-needs or normal functioning children, they all responded to the warmth of love and care. They can sense.. they can tell if someone is genuine, or just putting up appearances.

I persevered to work things differently as I tried different ways to handle those sparks within me. I am a directress but I am also human and we can be pushed over the edge sometimes. However, it is how we deal with it that is important. How we come back to it.. and try to keep at it, each time it seems to sizzle inside..

The next time I was faced with a child with a meltdown, I softly touched his/her arm. I'd say, "I love you. I'm going to hug you now.." During the embrace, I continue to affirm the child by saying I love you. Then comes the explanation. For example, "I love you. You know I do. But I am sad.. sad because this is not nice." I re-emphasize the same thing but this time looking into the child's eyes. "Toys are for playing. It hurts when it is thrown on my head. It does. (rubbing my head) It is not nice but I still love you and now after you hug me again.. tightly.. we will continue to play together again, yes?"

It took time for this to work, depending on the child I was working with. However, this way took my anger way faster while I run through the social stories I have prepared in my mind to continue what I wanted to say. For the children who were not very verbal yet, and they normally use facial cards - with expressions.. I would point to the expression at the moment. I will reiterate whether I was happy or sad or even at times angry. However, as educators we naturally can't yell or scold the child endlessly but during angry moments, the words will be short, yet firm/curt to display the effect of the seriousness of the matter.

I am just sharing what eventually though slowly worked for me.. even now with my own children. When any of them acts up or if one shouts/hits another sibling.. I'd start with the gentle stroke on the arm, tell them I'm going to hug them (some children might resist initially) and tell them we love them.. a few times.. and later the explanation. It takes a lot of me to do this especially when I have to work with all four of them in one room at the same time (my own kids la) but it is encouraging when I see my elder son stroke his baby brother so gently and say "I love you, baby... but cannot throw ok... it's painful. My trains will spoil. No battery." He meant, if the trains are thrown on the floor there won't be any sound on his trains. He is right about that. Then, he will hug the baby with my help because at this time he doesn't know how to do it gently and tends to fall on or fall over the baby instead. So he will tell me, "Mommy, I hug baby." That would be my cue to help him hug.

I am merely sharing and not sure if it may work with you or your children but like they say, never doubt the power of love. The warmth of love of a parent or educator can be felt whether or not the child can tell you it did.

Wishing all of you a good week ahead. :grphug:

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