SPARKLERS / Managing emotions


Anger is tricky - it can often be another emotion in disguise so sometimes before we jump to 'anger management' some detective work might be useful. Here's some tips on how to 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 continue on, or switch to some ‘chill time’ activity – quiet reading, colouring, anything you can think of in the moment!

Dr Dan Siegal who's behind a lot of the 'brain information' we have available now, says you 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 pretty angry and you might also be sad because...”

Offer them time-in with you, be near them and as they calm down re-engage them in the classroom 'chill-time' activity.

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.

As well as this, all teachers have their special strengths. If you have a teacher in your school with the amazing ability to ‘calm tarariki down’ seek their expertise and advice.

Oh, and go easy on yourself! You’re here because you care and want to do the best you can in the circumstances. Take a deep breath, 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.

When there's some time

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

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

When you notice their mood changing or escalating, stay with them – bring them beside you while you give instructions to the whole class or allow the group to continue with a task while this tamariki has the opportunity to calm down. Praise them as they do. Talk in statements rather than questions which may prompt further anger and let them know you’re there for them.

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.

And Sparklers offers:

It would also be cool to build tamraki self esteem by:

And remember to praise and reward tamariki when they're calm or employing 'calm down' strategies - often when tamariki know some, they will use them.

Enquire (and notice)

Clinicians often talk about “unpacking behaviour” and looking over what may have contributed including:

  • What preceded the outburst or meltdown?
  • Whether angry outbursts are occurring regularly, or are new.
  • What’s happening at home for this tamariki?
  • What’s happening inside their friendship group?
  • What’s happening in the classroom at the time? – could they be avoiding a lesson? Do they want something? Are they being rewarded by behaving this way (getting what they want i.e. to leave the classroom)? Or are they enjoying the attention this behaviour brings?
  • What’s my relationship like with this tamariki? Could I be contributing to 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 (not give negative attention to) and how can I create a good ratio of positive attention? Experts recommend 10 positive comments to 1 negative.
  • What adjustments do I need to make – to my feelings, actions and the environment
  • What information can I provide whānau and how can I include them? Try our parenting guide on Keeping Kids Calm - it's all about angry behaviour.
  • What’s available to ‘teach’ appropriate calming strategies? See the Sparklers activities in our “Angry” section (hehe!) for ideas.

Review (and follow up)

Support, strengthen and encourage the child’s strengths (as above).

Acknowledge and celebrate 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 recommend familiarising yourself with this and as your go-to for further analysis and as a matter of fantastic practice!

Encouraging positive behaviours via a classroom and whole school approach… how cool is that?!

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