SPARKLERS / Managing emotions

Supporting Angry Outbursts

Anger is tricky... it can often be another emotion in disguise. These tips explore how to 'play detective' and support angry-looking tamariki.
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A bit of background

Anger can often appear as another feeling in disguise. Worry, sadness, guilt, fear and embarrassment can all lead to ‘angry’ outbursts. A great place to start is to notice or try to find out what preceded or prompted any angry behaviour from tamariki.

Inspire (and try)

In the moment
Try to engage with the child one-on-one asking the rest of the class to a quiet activity. It may help to stay near the child as they calm down, before re-engaging them in the classroom activity.

Name it to tame it
Dr Dan Siegal who's behind a lot of the latest 'brain information', says we have to “Name it to tame it” so in the moment, name their emotion – “I'm wondering if you're angry because….” or “I notice you're looking a bit angry and you might also be sad because...” Letting them know you're there for them and talking in statements (rather than questions) can help minimise any further outbursts.

Call in the small guns!
Think about who in the class may be able to provide some empathetic support – tamariki can be really good at this in their own low-key, kid way.

When there's some time
Teachers are incredibly important to tamariki, and when a student feels a good connection with you they may be more receptive to seeking help, when needed. Make some one-on-one time available, even if it's just asking them to help you with a task (e.g. putting up chairs). Ask them questions about themselves and be interested in what they tell you.

Too hot to handle?
If the angry behaviour is too big to manage and threatens the safety of others, employ your school procedure, and when things are calm, try some planning as outlined below.

Enquire (and notice)

Anger serves an important purpose to communicate unmet needs – we love this piece – which gives more ideas and context.

Clinicians often talk about “unpacking behaviour” and considering what might have contributed, such as:

  • What preceded the outburst or meltdown? Is this a one-off or a regular occurrence?
  • What’s happening at home or inside their friendship group?
  • Could anything within the classroom have contributed – could they want something or be avoiding a lesson?
  • What’s my relationship like with this tamariki? Are there any other ways I can help mitigate this behaviour?

Plan (and reflect)

What behaviour do we want to see? - Being calm.

  • What opportunities are there to praise and pay attention to this behaviour?
  • What behaviour can be ignored? Experts recommend 10 positive comments to 1 negative.
  • What information can I provide whānau and how can I include them? Try our parenting guide on Helping Kids Keep Calm.
  • What’s available to ‘teach’ appropriate calming strategies? See our “Angry” section (hehe!) for ideas.
  • Reach out. If you have a teacher in your school with an amazing ability to ‘calm tamariki down’ seek their expertise and advice.

Review (and follow up)

Support, strengthen and encourage the child’s strengths (as above), celebrating any successes in keeping calm or calming down (no matter how small). Recognise the efforts and engagement of whānau.

We love the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) approach and encourage working in this creative and strengths-based way. We’ve adapted their ‘Encourage Positive Behaviours’ model for Sparklers.

And Sparklers offers activities for:

Oh, and go easy on yourself!
You’re here because you care and want to do the best you can in the circumstances. Internally high-five yourself (we’d give you one if we could!!) for self reflecting, thinking things through and looking for new solutions to try.

Looking after you

Check out our top tips for surviving, thriving and bringing your A-game!

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