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Dealing With Tantrums in the Classroom

written by: rocket_content • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 1/5/2012

Classroom management is a touchy topic for many, especially when it involves tantrums. Learning when to involve the parent and address your concern when it can't be handled otherwise, and finding a way to improve overall behavior in the classroom, is vital.

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    When Classroom Management Is Difficult

    More often than not children go through a stage in their life when they form a habit of tantrum throwing. Depending on the development level of the child, these tantrums can begin quite early and last well beyond the five year mark. It is especially important to have a plan of action when tantrums occur in the special education classroom where they are more likely to occur more often.

    You may have a student or possibly a few students who are regular tantrum throwers. The usual advice and old saying is to ignore the child when a tantrum begins to take place. Most parents and teachers know that this usually doesn’t work. So it is up to the teacher to test different strategies to find what does work. A solution to fix the problem should always be attempted before you contact the parent.

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    Approaching the Student

    When you talk to the child, it is always better to talk to him or her at eye level to ensure that you get their full attention. First take a day when you can spend some extra time with the student. Ask them how they feel when they are acting out; have them draw a picture or write how they feel; ask them if there is anything you can do to help them and prevent the behavior.

    Let the student know that they can talk to you anytime they feel something isn’t fair, have a disagreement with a peer or any other issue before they act out without consequence.

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    Something for the Class...

    To help the class with overall behavior, implement a consequence and reward system to give the children goals and to praise them for good behavior. This can usually be a color coded system that represents levels, or it can be a point system that utilizes “marks” that can be given or taken from the child depending on their behavior for that day.

    Another tactic that can be used in conjunction with the point system is to reward the other students when other students act up. It may be difficult to enforce the first couple of times but when a student sees it is easier and more fun to behave, they may just decide to. For the student that this seems to help, have a talk with them about the benefits of their good behavior and how it is so much better when they behave. Let them know you appreciate their good work and reward them from time to time to so they know you still notice their behavioral changes.

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    If a Solution Cannot Be Found

    If nothing you do seems to work, you should probably get the parent involved, find out about the way they conduct themselves in the home with the parent and what type of activities they participate in outside of school and how their behavior is kept under control in these places.

    Let the parent know that the child’s behavior is a concern and work out a plan that explains how the child’s episodes will be handled, when a parent will need to pick up their child and some suggestions that they can exercise in the home to aid in correcting the child’s behavior issues. If you feel that the student might start to harm others as some students tend to throw things or hit others, you should remove them from the class as safety should always be a first priority.

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    Ways to Set Goals and Prevent Meltdowns

    1) Frequently check with the children that tend to suffer from frustration episodes that frequently end up in tantrums

    2) Offer rewards (cheap treats or gadgets that can be bought at a 99 cent store) occasionally for children for things like sharing, helping a classmate. Make sure children in the class can tolerate candy and are not on any special diets or restrictions if you hand out snacks.

    3) You can have a quick discussion daily called a "Feeling Train." Go from row to row from the first student down to the last giving the child the option to talk about the way they feel that day. Give each student up to a minute to talk. Give them the option to talk, but don't make it mandatory.

    4) Try to accommodate the students by seating them according to preference. If you know a certain person argues with someone they are seated by, move them, or if a student likes a seat in front of the class and it doesn't pose a problem,let them sit there.