I often hear that young children - preschool to kindergarten age are incapable of learning calming techniques, self-regulation and managing their explosive behaviours but in my line of work I have found the opposite to be true. The younger a child learns how to manage their emotions and regulate their body the more successful they will be at managing them throughout life.
The techniques are somewhat different but it is important and achievable for young children struggling with significant tantrums and outbursts, emotional dysregulation and explosive behaviours.
Teaching a child how they "feel" is extremely valid, important and valuable. "You're angry right now." "I can see that you are sad." Addressing and labelling those emotions is an important step but we also have to do show them and offer them strategies on what to do when they feel that overwhelm.
So, how do we do this? When dealing with a young explosive child we must give them an alternative to the explosive behaviour beyond just saying "you're mad!" We need to help them understand what to do when they feel that way. Blowing bubbles is an easy way to teach young children to calm and breathe - if you blow too hard the bubble pops, too soft it does not form. You can also use a ping pong ball or crumpled into a ball piece of paper to blow back and forth across a table - soccer breathing.
- Create a visual that depicts the steps the child should take when they are feeling angry - no more than 3 to 5 steps: Stop, Mad, sit, blow bubble.... Stop, gentle hands, wait, blow bubbles, squeeze.
-The steps depend on the cognitive ability of the child.
-Have a safe place for them to move to when they feel that way - teach them to go there - again create a visual where necessary.
-Have everything you need in that safe space - bubbles, a ball to squeeze, fidgets, feelings chart. Post the steps.
-Use very direct language with few words, pointing to the visual.
-Use the words, deep breath with blow bubbles.
-Be very consistent that any time an eruption happens this is the plan - always If you are outside or out return back to class or the car. Have visuals with you and bubbles at all times.
-Create a visual that shows hold hand, break. If the child is caught early in the cycle - teach them to ask for a break and recognize when they need one - or after they are calm.
-***NEVER take a child for a break in the middle of a crises - if you take them to do something they love they may begin to act out the receive this reward.
-Use intentional play to teach the calming strategies when the child is calm. "Look how angry bear is, he's i n the read zone what should he do?" Practice the bubbles and squeeze the bear or a ball.
I have found these steps to be highly successful in working with young children. I hope you find them supportive. For more tips please visit my website: www.solvingbehaviour.com