Excitement is a wonderful thing, but still hard to 'come down from'. Emotional regulation is important for excitable tamariki too!
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A bit of background

Tamariki excitement can be a wonderful thing and sometimes when we notice it, we enjoy this experience with them. However, there can be times when excitement quickly switches to something that looks a bit ‘out of control’ and tamariki might be accused of ‘being silly’ or ‘acting out’ and it group, it can be contagious! Excitement (like anger) can also be a bit of a disguise – it may be masking embarrassment, avoiding something new or challenging, the need for more positive attention, not really understanding the rules or behaviour required at the time or it may be your student has a naturally livelier, noisier temperament and therefore this is just part ‘who they are’. Act as a detective and watch for clues as to what may be driving excitable behaviour.

Inspire (and try)

In the moment

It can be tempting to say “calm down!” in a stricter tone to an excited child, particularly when they are shrieking or squealing! Try and explain what is happening in this time and place i.e. “I can see that you are super excited, you will have to tell me about it, however I am doing …..right now (or the class is doing…..right now). How about doing…..(an errand) and then you can share your excitment with me when you get back.”

Another alternative for tamariki who struggle to wait, you could express your feeling more explicitly. Try: “I understand you're feeling super excited however I'm feeling a bit frustrated right now as I have this to complete. How about telling…(another child) about your news/why you are so excited and I will come and talk to you about it after I've finished this.”

If you name the child's feeling, and note the difference/discrepancy to your own, or the class, then you're providing prompts that this is not the time or place. Tamariki also learn that they have options to adjust these big emotions and you're always willing to reconnect in a positive way with them afterwards.”

Another options to try in the moment is to engage with the child one-on-one asking the rest of the class to continue, or switch to some ‘chill time’ activity – quiet reading, colouring, anything you can think of in the moment, that will involve tamariki being still and calm.

Either way, keep your excitable student near you as you give out any generalised instructions.

If needed, be clear with your excitable student that it’s time to take some time to chill out and calm down and if need be help them with this for now – deep breaths will help (you and them!). Praise them as they calm down.

When there's some time

Sparklers offers some activities to help:

  • Encouraging emotional literacy – try Energy Rollercoaster– and try running up and down using the emotion ‘excitement’. Kōrero what this would ‘look like’ with tamariki before they act it out! This could also become your ‘language’ to discuss what energy levels you expect, e.g “This activity needs you all to be at about a level 2 energy level.”
  • Teaching and practising calm down strategies – try Glitter Timers.
  • Building on tamariki strengths –try Compliment Posters.

Acknowledge and celebrate any successes in keeping calm or calming down (no matter how small).

Enquire (and notice)

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

  • What preceded the excitement?
  • 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 (i.e. laughs, some chaos, a specific reaction from us)?
  • What’s my relationship like with this tamariki? Could I be contributing to this behaviour?
  • Should I consider when to have high and low energy activities during the day?

Plan (and reflect)

What behaviour do I want to see? Being calm.

  • Think about some times when tamariki may require more guidance around their excitement. School trips and special activities are events where we can expect tamariki to be more excitable than usual. Explain beforehand the plan of the day and what your expectations are.
  • Consider what information you might provide whānau and how you can include them in your strategies? Sometimes excitement is nervousness (as per intro), or they’re just not aware of the appropriate social etiquette. This can be hard for excitable tamariki – they sometimes miss out on going places because parents won’t trust they can behave appropriately and they often get ‘told off’ for “being silly”... and not just by their parents! This might create a nice lead-in to talk to whānau, perhaps offering a parent guide such as ‘How to help kids feel good and have fun’ (without all the energy!).
  • Encourage parents to have conversations with tamariki about their feelings - they could look at old photo’s/facebook posts of family special events that celebrate the feeling of excitement. Help tamariki understand anticipation and how waiting for something can build the feeling of excitement i.e going on a plane or Christmas eve.
  • What’s available to ‘teach’ appropriate calming strategies? Try Tummy Breathing, Sleepy Statues, Taihoa! (teaching appropriate responses and reading cues from peers) or Sensory Kete (which is not just for younger tamariki, everyone can benefit from having some things to concentrate on to help them calm down – even adults)
  • Even if a tamariki has no diagnoses, sometimes some of the strategies for children with ADHD, can help. Check out our guide to supporting tamariki with diagnoses. And remember, anything you add to your classroom to help tamariki focus and be ready to learn will help every child.

Review (and follow up)

Support, strengthen and encourage the child’s strengths.

Acknowledge and celebrate any success (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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