Consistency is the Key
What do you do when you go to drop off your child at school after three snow days and your always happy to be in school child turns into a temper tantrum throwing person you have never met? It breaks your heart to leave your child seeing them act this way but you have to go to work, leaving your child at school in the middle of a full temper tantrum. Odds are this story resonates in one way or another with almost all of you, as I know it often happens at the beginning of the school year or after a change in schedule.
As adults, we attempt to have total ownership of our day. What/where we eat, drink, go, and sleep are all decisions that we are able to make. Our children, on the other hand, don’t have that control. Sometimes it is because they lack the understanding of why we can’t wear shorts and flip-flops in the winter or it can be as simple as needing them to go to school so you are able to go to work. This lack of power can leave your child feeling angry, sad, or even confused. But how can we help them feel that they are in control? The answer is simple, consistency.
When a child knows what to expect each day they feel that they are in control. They know that after coming to school they get to have a snack or after they put on their shoes they get to go outside. Giving your child the knowledge of what is next can be a game changer. This is why when your child takes a few days off of school, although it is sometimes a necessity, they can seem all out of sorts once coming back. Making sure that our days are consistent is one of the main ways I am able to maintain order in our community.
Each day when the students enter the community they put on their house shoes, sign in, and wash their hands. No matter what time the student enters the building they know that this is how we begin our day. The schedule of the day is already set out to be the same, which helps the students to know what is going to happen. If there are any changes, I try to tell them as far ahead of time as I can to help them prepare. This preparation helps the child to feel that they are in control, which is especially important when the routine has changed.
A great example of this type of change is Picture Day. I make sure to put it on our classroom calendar at the beginning of the month and explain what Picture Day is. As the day gets closer I make sure to remind everyone what is going to happen and how the day will be different. The day of, no matter how much we prep, is still chaotic. However, since the students know that things will be different many of them are able to be flexible and are okay with the changes.
By keeping things consistent for our students we are able to give them a sense of control and ownership of their lives. This, in turn, helps them to become more independent, well adjusted, and able to handle simple everyday stressors. The next time your child begins to act up when you drop them off at school, think about why. Was there a change in the morning? Did you have something out of the ordinary happen over the weekend? Just keep in mind that although we may feel frustrated by these outbursts, it is your child’s way of taking his/her control back.