Recently, six year old Salecia Johnson of Milledgeville, Georgia, had a terrible temper tantrum in her kindergarten class. She was destroying property and throwing things. She tipped over a small bookshelf that skimmed the Principal’s leg. It scared the heck out of the teachers, so they called police. The cops handcuffed Salecia, put her in the squad car and drove her to the police station.
So this is where school discipline is going? Salecia’s story is now viral. It’s in the news and the subject of talk shows. The school and Law Enforcement feel justified in their actions. The little girl’s parents are now suing the school. Sounds like common sense just ain’t so common anymore. Why weren’t her parents called? Why did the little girl go “postal” in the first place? Police haven't release the details.
Is this the latest trend in disciplining our children?
In a school setting, teachers are often caught in volatile situations. Zero Tolerance has given justification for calling outside reinforcements. For safety and legal reasons, they’d rather let police handle disruptive and disorderly conduct incidents than deal with them themselves. In this techno-savvy age of 21st century enlightenment, are we becoming dumb or dumber? The argument can be made that kids today are more violent and harder to manage. Strict policies to help protect children from adults are now making it harder for teachers to discipline the students. Schools are vulnerable to lawsuits. Having a third party such as police handle a volatile situation keeps innocents safe and school officials' hands clean.
Judith Browne Dianis, a civil rights litigator and writer for The Huffington Post, The Root, and other publications, calls it the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse track. Salecia and other young children have taken an early ride. She writes, "...They, like millions of other children in this country, are victims of the school-to-prison pipeline -- a system of zero-tolerance policies in schools across the nation that take an unyielding approach to student discipline and in which children of color are punished more often and more severely for minor misbehavior than their white peers."
I'll address the schoolhouse-to jailhouse track in another post. For now, let's talk about how to address tantrums.
Back in the day, parents and caregivers had ways of making out-of-control tempers wane. It involved a switch, belt, the palm of your hand, or a paddle. But of course today, if you resort to such tactics – especially in public places, you may get the police called on you .
An educator's experience dealing with violent student outbursts
Vickie L. Rogers, mother of three boys and grandmother of one, is a St. Louis educator with over 30 years of teaching and administrative experience under her belt. She has witnessed an upsurge of childhood emotional issues. “Adults are not equipped to understand or handle it. Love for kids and training is essential.”
How should Salecia’s actions been handled? It’s hard to say not knowing the circumstances. During Vickie's career, she has occasionally resorted to physical restraint, “There are safety techniques to lower “out-of-controls” to the floor... I am trained and have restrained teenaged boys or girls while fighting. No one has gotten hurt. After the child has calmed down, you stop the physical restraint. But teachers who are not trained run the risk of being sued if the child is hurt.”
As a parent, how should you handle your child’s tantrums at home or in a public place?
Here are a few tips that worked for me raising my sons. Results may vary.
Do not feed the tantrum: Kids respond to your anger, frustration, pleading, negotiations, and nervous energy. It fuels the outbursts and makes them worse. Spanking the child feeds into and escalates the negative energy which can do more harm than good. Keep your cool. Your calmness and restraint starves the tantrum.
Ignore the tantrum: Your child will eventually get the point that nobody cares and will eventually stop. Kids need to know how to handle and control their own emotions.
Example: When my oldest son pulled a tantrum on the grocery store floor, I wanted to swap his butt real bad. I had done that a couple of times in the past but it didn’t work because we were making a scene. I had to cut my shopping short to teach him a lesson. But I shortchanged myself. The next time he pulled a tantrum, I did something different. I walked away, not too far, but far enough to let him know I wasn’t dealing with it. (You still want to keep an eye on him.) Baffled, he ran after me. That tantrum was starving for attention. I kept ignoring it and shopping until he composed himself. THEN I addressed my son – calmly.
Remove the child and place him in his room to calm down is another tactic. Yep, the ole' time-out routine.
Use calming techniques. This is an effective preventive tactic I use on my grandsons. When I sense anxiety and frustration brewing, I tell them to take it easy and breathe deeply. I breathe with them. (This works best when they’re not angry at you.) We soon fall into a rhythmic breathing pattern. I have them repeat “Take it easy.” And it works! One time my five year old used it on me when I got frustrated with a TV show. “Take it eeeeasy, grandma… breeeathe… it’s just a TV show!” Ha, I guess he understood the concept.
Physically restrain the child. If the child is doing harm to himself or others, you may have to go in and hold the child firmly to the floor until the child calms down. Teachers should be trained in this technique, and given prior written permission by parents to use his tactic if necessary. If these out-of-control tantrums persist, consider seeking professional help for your child.
Stopping tantrums will not be achieved instantly. But if you practice these techniques consistently, you will likely see positive results. The secret is keeping your cool under pressure. Rise above the embarrassment, anger and frustration. Take deep breaths and take it eeeeasy.
One thing I suggest you NOT do: Call the police.
What tactics do you use to ease the temper tantrums?