Ask an Expert: Dear Teacher
by Tracy Christman
Q: My child has had severe temper tantrums since he was young. In kindergarten and first grade, his teachers were willing to work with me, but his second-grade teacher is less tolerant, and even suggested we pursue counseling. I don’t think his school tantrums are that severe. Am I off-base?
A: Temper tantrums at home can be very difficult to handle. Temper tantrums in a class of 20 or 30 kids can also be a struggle. Things that may be more manageable at home can still interrupt the flow of learning in the classroom. So, while your son’s tantrums are not more severe, they may be more disruptive now that he’s older and more expectations for school behavior are placed on him.
You have dealt with your child’s tantrums for a long time, even before he was in school, so you have likely found strategies to minimize that stubborn behavior and decrease the severity of the tantrum. Don’t throw out those strategies just because they are not all working effectively right now. Keep using those that work, but also add more strategies to your repertoire.
A recommendation for counseling can be hard to hear, but it’s a great option for children and adults alike. Often, people wait to pursue counseling until behaviors are out-of-hand or when children become teenagers. Waiting can be ineffective because by that time, a child may not be willing to open up to a stranger. When a child goes to counseling early, develops a relationship with a therapist and sees the many reasons a person might go to a counselor, it can become a very normal and extremely effective tool. It may also address the concerns that reach beyond what school staff can support.
It sounds as if your child is, at times, disrupting the tone of the classroom as well as his learning time and the learning of others. Believe me, I doubt he is the only one! Students ebb and flow through difficult times. I would suggest continuing to work with his teacher, and consider counseling. If your child becomes more successful in school, he will feel more confident about his ability to handle different situations. In turn, he will spend more time in the classroom and increase his learning time.
Tracy Christman is an MPS school psychologist and mother of two. Send your questions to email@example.com, or ask you question online during Ask an Expert Mondays on Facebook and Twitter.