Tahoe-Truckee education: Avoiding winter meltdowns with children | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee education: Avoiding winter meltdowns with children

Ruth Jackson Hall
Special to the Sun

Child meltdowns are, at times, a part of growing up.

Winter in the Sierra! Meltdowns are part of the scene — if the meltdown involves ice on your driveway, that's a good thing.

But if the meltdown involves a toddler or preschooler trapped indoors after days of stormy weather, it is not so great. Meltdowns or tantrums are a difficult but normal part of growing up. They result when children do not get what they want or need and do not have the developmental skills to express this.

A toddler may desire a certain toy but does not have the needed vocabulary. When the caregiver doesn't respond, he cries in frustration.

Preschoolers assert independence by engaging in power struggles around things like getting dressed or special treats at the market.

Tips for coping with tantrums include, staying calm, not giving in to the tantrum and not trying to reason with a child in a full-blown tantrum — his emotions have taken over. For younger children, teach sign language to aid communication.

Parent/Educator Workshops

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Child behavior was the topic of recent TTUSD parent and educator workshops.

Facilitated by Aaron Stabel, BCBA and funded by First Five Nevada County, the series provides parents and educators with research-based strategies to help children birth to 5 develop the social-emotional skills to be successful in school.

Daily routines, accompanied by good behavior, are important places to begin. Teaching children how to get dressed, brush their teeth and coping with emotions all require the same elements as teaching piano or learning to read: trust, easy to understand instructions, and lots of practice and patience.

Tips for teaching daily routines:

1. Make sure you have your child's attention.

2. Break down the routine into manageable steps.

3. Focus on the positive and remember the 4:1 rule—find 4 things to praise for every admonishment.

4. Don't expect perfection. Nurture the routine over time.

5. Include child choice and "First/Then" to increase motivation for less preferred routines, e.g. "Would you like to brush your teeth with bubble gum or strawberry toothpaste? First, brush your teeth. Then, we will read your favorite story."

6. Consider visual supports such as photos, drawings or a checklist for each step of the routine. Put the visual next to the bathroom sink for reinforcement. You can also create home made storybooks depicting the activity you are teaching.

8. Pre-teaching — before going to the market, discuss what will happen: "We are going to the market to buy food for our family." Preview potential challenges: "There will be lots of yummy food, but we can't get everything, so let's make a list." List choices: "You can choose your favorite flavor of ice cream and pick 2 favorite fruits. Describe outcomes: "Everyone will come home with things they like."

For information on upcoming parent and early educator child behavior workshops, call 530-582-2583 or email rhall@ttusd.org.

For excellent information on this topic visit: Center on the Social Emotional Foundations of Early Learning at http://csefel.vandebilt.edu.

Ruth Jackson Hall is Early Learning Coordinator for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. Visit ttusd.org to learn more.