**** Please note that I do not receive any commissions of any sort for the books that are mentioned in this post. They are simply books that I have found useful. ****
I've been asked numerous times "how do I get my 4 year old to calm down?" and "how do I teach my child some anger management skills?"
Well ..... I'm no child psychologist but what I do have is years of experience in assisting my own children and other children to learn how to manage their anger.
I currently work in an early childhood learning centre and work predominantly with the 3 to 5 year old age group. Just recently I have been trialling various positive behaviour strategies.
One of the strategies that I am employing is our Happy Pebbles.
After reading the book "A Handful of Quiet," I decided to take elements of idea that the book promotes and incorporate it into our Kindy Room program. However I figured that I may have had quite a bit of trouble trying to get 20 odd children to sit quietly contemplating their navels so I came up with a slightly different idea incorporating pretty stones.
After reading A Handful of Quiet, I went to my local hardware store and purchased a bag of lovely looking ornamental stones. These were to become our Happy Pebbles.
I also found a book, online of course, called "Little Monkey Calms Down," written by Michael S. Dahl. It is part of the hello genius series and the blurb for this book states that "this book promotes manners, speaking skills and animal recognition."
While reading Little Monkey Calm Down to L, he was able to recognise his own feelings of anger. During the story, he copied the actions that the little monkey was doing to calm down and I thought, aha I am onto something.
One of my personal goals for O and L is to introduce them to the concept of breathing exercises to assist them to calm down. O is doing incredibly well, even though she will not admit it, however L hasn't quite grasped the concept. I have a feeling that the current book that we are using at home is beyond his comprehension level at this present moment.
One of the pages in Little Monkey Calms Down, talks about Little Monkey taking a deep breath so I thought that perhaps this page could help L and my charges at work to understand breathing exercises.
This past week at work I have begun to introduce the book and the Happy Pebbles to my Kindy children. To begin with, I simply read the book to them as a group and asked them how they thought the Little Monkey was feeling. They all did very well at identifying the emotions of sad and angry. So I then asked them what type of things made them feel sad or angry and they came up with ideas such as their friends not sharing, falling over and hurting themselves and losing their teddy bears. Oh, the innocence!
We then continued with the book and copied the actions of little monkey throughout the story. The story is quite a short story but I found it incredibly effective in explaining what we can do if we're feeling sad, mad or angry.
At the completion of the book, I gave each of my charges a Happy Pebble to hold in their hands and I explained that the pebbles that they were holding would help to make them happy, just like Little Monkey, but first we had to do a few things with the pebbles.
I asked them to rub their pebbles on the middle of their chest over their heart so that pebble had lots of love in it, then we rubbed it on their heads to fill the pebble with some happy thoughts and then we gave the pebbles a kiss for good measure!
You should have seen their little faces, their smiles said it all.
I then explained that we had to put the pebbles in our pockets to keep them safe and that each time that they were feeling sad, they could take their pebbles out and rub it on their hearts and on their heads and then give it a kiss to get some more happy thoughts and love.
It sounds like a very-off-with-the-fairies concept but you know what, it actually worked. It took some of the children a few times to get the idea but most of the children got it first go. I could see them getting their pebbles out when they were becoming frustrated and going through the actions to calm down. And whenever myself or the other educators noticed a child becoming agitated we would gently remind them what they might like to do with their Happy Pebble.
It wasn't specifically teaching them breathing exercises but by going through the motion of rubbing the pebble on their chest, their head and then giving it a kiss, those actions were giving them time to breathe and to have a break from what was going on around them.
The following day as soon as I started on the floor at work, I had all these Kindy children asking for their pebbles! Wow what a change!
I had children very excitedly telling me "Jenni, my stone make me happy again!"
I had children becoming distressed when they had misplaced their stones, which resulted in a Happy Pebble hunt around our outside play area until we found the missing pebbles!
I had children reminding each other to rub their pebbles on their hearts and heads to get more happy thoughts, and "don't forget a kiss, it needs a kiss too!"
I had children asking to take their Happy Pebbles home, and then very excitedly showing me the Happy Pebble the next day and saying "see I no forget it!"
It is going to take time for my charges to be able to do breathing exercises without a pebble to focus on, but it was truly wonderful to see them beginning to understand how they can take charge of their emotions.
Now I need to go and purchase some more Happy Pebbles to restock my magic bag!!