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Strategies For Helping Child Cope With Feelings Of Anger/frustration


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Had a child today who was very angry unhappy about an incident and tried to take his frustration out on other children but luckily staff intervened, however succeeded with staff, hitting/kicking staff, throwing toys at them for some minutes, even after gently removing to a quiet area away from an audience (still with two members of staff). Usually, we would sit with the child until they had calmed down sufficiently to talk about what happened but he was having none of that today. Doesn't happen that often.


How would do you deal with this situation, should it happen again?


My initial thoughts are to look at how the initial problem was handled so as to try to avoid such an angry response.


Would you say something like 'you seem very angry, can you tell me how you feel?'.


Would you allow the child to take his anger out on say a cushion?

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How verbal is the child? I think you're right to look at what happened, how he was handled etc to see if there are clues to this suddenly more extreme behaviour.


I would definitely acknowledge his feelings - sometimes all children need is to know you understand what they're feeling, even if you don't know why! That in itself can sometimes be enough to enable a conversation about what the child is feeling - but then again things might be more complex with this child. Has mum/dad said there is anything especially worrying for the child at the moment?


I'm not sure about enabling a child to take out his/her frustrations on an inanimate object such as a cushion because I have never used this strategy. I know that even young children have used stress balls with some success, and I have heard arguments which say that it is a good idea to punch a cushion because it gets rid of aggression, but yet others say that we should be concentrating on enabling children to talk through their emotions because violence is still violence, even if it is being inflicted on a cushion. Depends upon your own feelings, perhaps.


My gut reaction would be to start from where the child is currently. If he cannot verbalise his anger and needs to vent his frustration then a cushion might be a good idea. We used to have a little boy who would should very loudly when he was cross with the other children, and needed support to move on from this to telling children calmly what was wrong. It may be that if your little chap needs to physically express his anger a cushion would be a good bet, and if you follow this up with a brief chat about what he was feeling and why, this might help him find another way to deal with things.


Sounds to me like you have very patient staff, Deb!



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Thanks Maz, you seem to have understood the situation very well, which is why it is so useful to be able to pose concerns on here and know you will get a response from such knowledgable people! Thank you.


I'm not sure about the cushion either, I wanted to consider other ways of dealing it should it happen again. It's very difficult to think with missiles being launched at you :o ! Slight exaggeration!


Think you're right - look at how his initial unacceptable behaviour was handled - could that have triggered his anger - he so wanted to take it out on someone and when a child is at such a heightened state of arousal they're not thinking straight.


Maybe giving him a cushion to lie on rather than a chair to knock over or something more stable.


Then acknowledge his feelings. He can express himself, although his speech is not fluent. He is 4 years old.


I wondered if something was worrying him for him to react so too.

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Hi Sal


Are you a bit bruised too?


Our little one seemed very hyped up today, taking toys, looking for ways to wind other children up.


At one point he was banging a kettle repeatedly on the table but nobody took any notice, he then proceeded to knock plastic cups off a cupboard in the home corner, followed by something else as he moved round the home corner, after he tipped up a bowl of plastic fruit - i said a very firm 'stop' with my hand up (lollipop lady fashion) and asked him to help me pick it all up which he did.


Later at lunch he knocked something off the side, so again I asked him to help me pick things up.


He has hit children today, I feel more to see what reaction he can achieve, what reaction will I get if I hit Joe's head with this maracca (sp)? He did hit out once at a member of staff in anger but not like the day before.


He does seem to respond to a firm stop and 'lollipop' hand from both staff and children.


Think we shall have to look out the - no biting, hitting, kicking book to share with him again.


He is going to School in September but we haven't mentioned the S word yet.

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Hi Deb


It sounds as if you're beginning to make headway - I have visions of you in the lollipop lady's uniform! :o Seriously though it seems as if you've found something he responds to, so perhaps you need a little army of lollipop ladies to help him see when he's crossed the line.


Also you've noticed what he is doing and are beginning to get some understanding about why he might be acting the way he is - so that's progress too isn't it? As he's co-operating with you in tidying up after himself, I wonder if this is an attention thing - after all he's getting lots of close attention when he 'misbehaves'. So the old fashioned "catching them when they're good" approach might be even more helpful with this little chap.


There's nothing new to offer really, is there? Sometimes I think children who are feeling a bit out of sorts with the world or a bit unsure of themselves need to provoke situations to get an adult's reaction in order to re-state the boundaries and regain some sort of control. Wonder how he's feeling about himself at the moment?


Keep up the good work: as you say its hard to think clearly when the lego is whinging past your ears!



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Hi all , It seems to be catching we have a boy who acts just the same . We got so frustrated with it we asked our sen officer to come in to see him to make sure it wasnt some thing we were doing .

But oh oh when she came in he was good as gold. She did an observation on him for 50 mins .

She thought he knew she was watching him so he behaved . This was repeated this two weeks later with same results .She tolled us to do small observasions. and talk to him to find what upsets him . Still no results , like me i bet you could write a book on his behviour.

Well we just have to carry on . :o Good luck to all with this problem , but we do love them all. Pat

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Something certainly seems to have triggered the re-emergence of this sort of behaviour in our child, although I think the aggression towards staff was worse on Tuesday. Numbers are up in the session, perhaps the busy-ness of the morning is arousing him.


I think as Maz suggests we do need to restate the boundaries for him. We do praise him and he does get good attention but perhaps we need to redouble our efforts to 'catch him doing something good' before he has time to go on a wind-up mission. Bless him, 2 minutes after we picked up all the bits off the floor of the home corner, he came to me and said 'it's not very nice weather today'. If in doubt, blame the weather!

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We also have a little boy like this. We are aware of a family situation which might not being helping but he is always telling us he will tell his mum on us and that he isn't coming anymore! Some days we all silently hope so. But then other days he can be the most charming and helpful young man. It does seem in his case that there are some days when he just feels out of sorts and the slightest thing can set him off. We have tried to step in before he becomes too angry and ask him to help with a job. Giving him some responsibility, before his behaviour becomes unacceptable of course, really seems to help and provides the staff with a good opportunity to give lots of praise and attention for positive behaviour. Other days he just seems to want a cuddle and opportunity to sob his heart out for five minutes - I know that feeling well.

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Have you talked with his parent /carer? Is there something else worrying him? Is he like this at home. We have a similar situation but our little boy has had a recent bereavement. he took his frustration out on the play dough today! I think the parents should know how he's been behaving and involve them in positive behavior reward chart. There also needs to be a consistent approach by all members of staff to zero tolerance of this behaviour. We had a very violent child for a while. When we adopted zero tolerance [his mum was called to take him home as soon as he physically hurt someone] his behaviour changed. He sounds very different to your little boy however who sounds like he needs lots of ways to try and help him communicate his anger. Try role play with puppets. Play a scenario that you have seen happen and see if he can explain how the puppet is feeling. good luck


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After years of doing this job this is the worse term for children especially the older ones going on to school. Find out if anything is going on at home. Is his family telling him he's got to be a big boy as he's going to school. I've found that the more confident ones often show more anxiety about going to school. If he can verbalise does he say why he feels angry. Maybe ask him in the morning first thing if he feels angry or calm, see if he can understand when he feels calm so that he can recognise when he is beginning to feel angry tell him to go and find a quiet corner on his own or a cushion that he can sit on while he feels angry. Give him a special place to go that makes him take ownership of his feelings.obviously it only works if he understands that he is getting angry.

Good luck and think that it is only a short tiem till the summer holidays, Also maybe ask parents not to mention school at home for a while and see if it makes a difference.

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Thank you for your responses, some very good ideas from people who have been there, got the t-shirt, and come out the other side.


I will take your suggestions to the staff meeting tomorrow. We do need consistency in the way we challenge the behaviour and to look for ways to catch him doing something good. Need to think where he can sit quietly to reflect. Lots to think about, thanks for the ideas.


His keyperson has spoken to Mum who says he is the same in other situations. We need to continue the dialogue.

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Deb, I hope the end of the week has been better than the start. :o


I get very confused with how to deal with my young chap xD . In the last few days I have been kicked in the back (whilst crouched talking to another child), strangled and slapped round the face!! This is on top of the children that have been hit and kicked.


I remove him into a safe place to calm down and I go and look at a book or play with a puppet and after a while he calms down and comes over. We look at the book together and I hopefully get him back into the frame of mind to do some work (he is yr2, but working up to reception level).


The problem is I don't want to look as if I am letting him get away with the unwanted behaviour. When I tell him no or not to do something he gets very physical and has even lashes out when he gets praise, ripping up the work he has done and throwing it on the floor.


This is not all the time of course but when he has a bad few days, we all know about it.

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I feel for you Salsa! I had a plastic spade between the eyebrows. Our little chap is only 4, a child in year 2 is going to be bigger and stronger too.


Much of the same I'm afraid all week.


Would you be able to take your child outside for a run around to let off steam before he gets to the hitting stage? Our little one went certainly seems to be interested in a trajectory schema, (throwing things and running around) so we feel this is what he needs to do.


I think you are right to do as you do, allow him the space to calm down. On a behaviour management course I went on some years ago, we were told that it can take up to 45 minutes for us to calm right down from a state of arousal. If at anytime during that descent, there is further arousal we can quickly climb back up that hill, if you can visualize it.


I also think you are right to wait for him to come to you too. It's the next part which is the difficult part isn't it.


Thinking of our experiences, not yours, it doesn't seem right to cuddle and read a story. We need some way of letting him know that it is the behaviour we do not like, not him. I wonder if we could devise our own home-made book to illustrate what behaviour we do and don't want. I seem to remember a post about something similar.


Do you get any help from outside agencies?

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Hi there


I have a little chap who seems to be quite similar. I take him outside as much as possible as it seems too be within the confines of 4 walls that he starts to stress out and acts like a caged animal. I try to take the focus activity outside too if weather permits, have found that a lot of children spend longer doing the activity if they can run off for 5 mins high action then they come back and sometimes make spectacular achievement.


He is in his element at Forest School, he can then focus for much longer than the children who enjoy sitting down inside and doing activities.

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Hi again, I've just thought of another possible avenue, the behaviour support team at your local LEA. They were brilliant when we had problems, but we had to wait ages. They advocated a zero tolerance approch. As soon as child displayed any violent behaviour we had to isolate him and phone his mum to pick him up. It took a few weeks but worked like a dream. He loved nursery and wanted to stay, so he changed his behaviour! He also became a much happier child.

Good luck anyway Womble

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Thanks Womble for your reply. I think you are right, we all need to adopt a zero tolerance of his behaviour. Not sure how colleagues would feel about phoning Mum to collect him following violent outburst but personally I could really see that working in this case. Hadn't considered that as an option, perhaps because as practitioners we feel we should be able to cope, quite why I'm not sure!


Thanks again.

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I received this from a member who prefers not to post it herself. :o


I work in a special school with children who have language and communication difficulties/delay. We often use sensory activities when children are distressed, eg playing with cooked pasta, away from the others if necessary. This helps to calm the child before trying to sort the problem and looking for a way forward. Other ideas include giving the child an oil dropper with which to play or a toy with a button to press or a cord to pull which in turn 'does something'- moves/makes a sound...... whatever that particular child will respond to before communication about the problem begins. We use a visual approach in our communications mostly using Makaton printed symbols and signing to express feelings and ideas, although the children in my current class are all able to speak, this approach helps with the understanding and expressing of feelings. For example, a child can sign or give us a symbol for 'sad', 'angry', etc so we have started with the child being able to recognise how s/he is feeling before moving on to with whom, why and what can be done about it. I realise that many settings won't have Makaton resources but you could make some reusable cards using pictures showing happy, sad, cross, etc. Along with this it is a good idea for a staff member with the child to draw a picture of what happened and then another picture of what could have happened instead and/or what the child and you would like to happen next time. You don't have to be an artist, stick men will do and the adult should do much, if not all, of the drawing to avoid a further tantrum about drawing skills!


hope that's of some help..... all the best.

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Many thanks for your reply, all support is very gratefully received.


We have widgit in our setting so I will have a look to see if there are symbols on there we could use to show feelings such as happy, sad, angry etc and think of ways to calm him before attempting to get to the bottom of the problem.


Our child likes having particular drawings done for him at the moment so drawing out the scenario could be a way forward with him too.

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I occasionally receive an unsolicited email from a company who have nonetheless colllated a collection of useful early years books.

I was wondering if anybody had heard of these authors? Given my post, they caught my eye.


The One-Minute Temper Tantrum Solution: Strategies for Responding Efficiently and Effectively to Children's Challenging Behavior

Ronald Mah

In clear and understandable language, this resource explains what happens within a child when throwing a tantrum (verbal and/or physical) or exhibiting other disruptive behaviors, and offers teachers specific guidance and directions to meet the challenge. "The One-Minute Temper Tantrum Solution" helps teachers assess their beliefs about, and reactions to, children's aggressive behaviors to increase awareness of their own expectations and assumptions. The author examines developmental, situational, physical, and temperamental factors that can ignite acting-out behavior and explores the 4 types of tantrums that are related to power, distress, despair, and stress. This book includes vignettes, easy-to-implement strategies, and chapter summaries that highlight key topics. When educators recognize what causes aggressive behaviors, they can respond quickly to children's needs with appropriate strategies or interventions. This practical book can also be used in conjunction with the author's "Difficult Behavior in Early Childhood" which addresses issues underlying harmful behaviors.

`Ronald Mah's new book is fantastic! It simplifies the different types of temper tantrums into a manageable approach for educators and child care professionals' - Kelly Van Raden, Career Advocate for Early Care and Education

Child Care Links




Crucial First Steps with Children 3-7 years

Bill Rogers and Elizabeth McPherson

Written by Behaviour Management expert, Bill Rogers and his daughter, Early Years teacher, Elizabeth MacPherson, this will be an essential book for all Early Years students, infant teachers, support staff and school leaders.


`What a privilege to read a book written by the person that has had the most impact on my classroom teaching and the whole ethos of our school. Behaviour Management with Young Children brings together Bill's insight into behaviour management and Elizabeth's understanding of young children and has resulted in a practical and realistic behaviour management manual that will be easily accessible to teachers in the early years…I shall be recommending it to all my teaching and support staff as essential reading' - Debbie Hoy, Headteacher, Brookland Infant & Nursery School, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire







Hibernian Football Club

Easter Road Stadium Conference Centre


Bill will offer a comprehensive guide to the effective behaviour management of our youngest children. The ideas and concepts will appeal to all staff and will include:critical first days and first weektransition to on-task learning timehelping students to manage their behaviourchallenging student behaviourpositive discipline practiceshelping children with special behaviour needsdeveloping a teacher management planthe importance of colleague support

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