Angry Children

I should start a new categorie called “Friday.”  It’s so consistent…every Friday I feel the urge to spill my random guts on my blog!!!  🙂

My students are really challenging me these days.  There are 10 boys and 3 girls in my class.  I don’t know what is the cause…It could just be all the boys.  It could be all the violence they see in video games, t.v., whatever.  It could be all the sugar and processed food that is going into their little bodies.  But everything seems so aggressive and violent in my classroom this year!  Everyone wants to hurt each other.  And maybe I care too deeply, but it hurts me, thinking about these little souls that desire to hurt another person at the tender age of 3 or 4.  How did they get so jaded so quickly in life?  When they are 10-year-old boys, what will they be like?  Will anything happen between now and then to make it worse?  I’m afraid so.  Their violence characterizes every part of school for them, not only how they respond to conflict, but the way they treat toys and materials, the scenarios that they act out in play, the way they physically move around the classroom.

I don’t know what to do.  Kids are getting hurt.  Toys are being broken.  Books are ripped on a regular basis.  Can I have a preschool classroom without books?  Of course not.  But how can I get them to treat our things with respect, much less each other?  I get that some of them might be too young to have empathy, but that doesn’t make violence okay.  As we’re growing and learning empathy, how can we have a safe environment in the mean time?

Time out doesn’t work.  Not just in this situation, time out doesn’t work in general.  It’s often an adult’s first line of defense, and that’s okay, because the first thing you need to do is get yourself in a place where you can deal with the child calmly, and sometimes that requires getting the child away from you for a moment.  But in general, the child is supposed to sit there and “think about what you did,” right?  Well, what you focus on, you get more of.  Therefore, if I’m four and I kick my friend, and I sit for two minutes and think about kicking my friend, the next time I’m in the same situation, the only thing I will know how to do is kick my friend.  In my classroom, time out is an extra strategy, to be pulled out when absolutely necessary.  The first line of defense in my classroom is the teaching of skills–identifying the situations that seem to trigger a kid, and teaching him skills that will help him get what he needs in a positive way.  Sometimes that involves sitting my butt right next to a child that will try to grab a toy out of a friend’s hands, and the second before he’s about to grab it, I’ll give him some words that he can use, like “Can I please have that?”  Other times, I hear a commotion across the room and I come running, take the toy causing the tug-of-war, and work the children through a process of identifying the problem, coming up with possible solutions, choosing one, and seeing it implemented.  Many times there are opportunities to model empathy.  “Look at his face.  He looks sad.  His crying sounds sad.  I think he’s feeling sad because his leg hurts where it got kicked.”  (Yes, all you non-early-childhood people, it sounds just as childish and fakey when I say it out loud.  But it works!)  All of these strategies I have in my back pocket work great.  By this time of the school year, those children who didn’t know how to ask for what they want are using the words I taught them.  Children are beginning to work through the conflict resolution process without me guiding them.  Children are running to me with the panicked, “Miss B, so-and-so looks sad!!!”  You do these things over and over, for months, and eventually you see results.

But how can I change their attitudes about the value of each other?  How can I undo a lifetime of home environment with a year or two of preschool?  How can I make up for 133 hours a week of t.v. violence, video game violence, parental violence, sibling violence, neighborhood violence with 35 hours of preschool?  I don’t know.  I’m so, so sad for them, and I don’t know how to help them. 

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Doris
    Mar 10, 2008 @ 14:06:50

    You are giving them the words and tools to use. You are seeing the result as they come to you with the statement that someone is looking sad. That is something they were not able to do 6 months ago. You may not be undoing what they are being exposed to but you are exposinbg them to another way to deal with these things and making sure they see the new tools work for them. Then you have to turn it over to God since you have no control over anything outside of your classroom in these children’s lives.

    Reply

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