By Christine Marchant

We’ve all been in this situation. We are the Child Development Facilitator (CDF) for the child that is constantly hitting, biting, kicking, snatching toys, having meltdowns, etc. The teachers and assistants and even the other children are constantly on the lookout for little Bobby and his “negative” behavior. Any screaming or crying or disrupting behavior, it’s little Bobby! You noticed that it’s always little Bobby. He’s ALWAYS in the middle of the fray and ruckus. He’s guilty every single time! He’s always the instigator and always the only person everyone points to. He’s ALWAYS disruptive and badly behaved.

You’re exhausted and tired and out of solutions.

So, now that you have tried all of the obvious solutions, try this solution: STOP!! 

STOP trying to solve their problem! 

STOP running into the situation, assigning blame, and dragging out the accused! 

STOP assuming that little Bobby is guilty! 

STOP assuming little Bobby is the problem. 

Now spend the next week observing. Keep your eye on little Bobby EVERY second of the session. Not to rush over and “catch him being bad” but to actually see what is going on. Don’t run over to the situation—keep watching them. Count to 30 in your head BEFORE you bolt up and run over. Now, keep your eye on them. Watch little Bobby’s hands and body language for his reaction. Continue to count slowly to 30 in your head as you silently and casually walk to the situation. If little Bobby starts to grab, pinch, hit, etc., you silently and quickly scoop little Bobby up into a toddler hold (exactly as I call it, like you’re holding a toddler with the child on your hip, using your arms to gently hold his arms down against his body). Smile and say calmly “What’s all this fuss about boo boos?” EVERYONE will start yelling at once! Little Bobby will start to kick anyone close by. You are the adult. You’re taller than them and you just quietly walk away from the group. When you are in the clear section, you give little Bobby that gentle jiggle we instinctively give to every toddler we have in our arms. Little Bobby will take the cues from your body language. Walk around or rock back and forth and jiggle little Bobby and say “It’s ok, it’s all done. One and done folks. We’ll discuss this later. Continue playing.”

This immediately diffuses the situation. The other adults will immediately start lecturing you about how WRONG you are!!

They will immediately try to assign blames and punish everyone involved. Don’t let them intimidate you. Just smile and continue to hold and rock little Bobby. Let the other adults deal with the situation. You just continue to hold and jiggle little Bobby. You’re not comforting him and giving him the idea that it was okay to beat on his friends. What you are actually doing is keeping him from attacking his peers and causing more negative behavior and disruption. Keep your body calm and a calm expression on your face. When the adults have calmed down and the children have calmed down, you assess little Bobby’s body language. If he’s calm, carry him to an isolated location and pull out a book to read. 

This will get the other adults all upset with you and they’ll tell you that you are WRONG!! You’re rewarding him for his behavior, etc. I’ve taken SO MANY “dressing downs” for using this technique. I just shrug and keep a pleasant expression on my face.

Now that little Bobby is calm, you don’t discuss anything about the situation. You say, “Bobby, you are welcome to join your friends when you use calm hands and a gentle voice.” Then model exactly the behavior you are expecting. You join the children and play the way you expect little Bobby and all of the children to play. Using gentle hands and a kind voice. Don’t boss the children around or become the entertainer. You play as if you are a child. This shows everyone involved how we expect everyone to behave.

An example of this. My little Bobby has spent September, October, and half of November being in this situation. By the time they called me in, this poor child was having complete meltdowns maybe 3-5 times a day. Every time there was an activity transition or even if the class had a few free minutes of no attention from the adults. 

His meltdowns consisted of attacking his peers, body checking peers like bowling pins, running over to a group of children, snatching a toy, and running away, etc. This was very disruptive and created total chaos in the classroom. The adults’ response was to wade into the fray, pluck little Bobby out and sit him in time out, then calm everyone down. It looked very grim by the time I showed up. By using this calm, toddler carry method, within two weeks, the classroom management went from total chaos and frustrated adults, to calm transitions and no one was yelling at little Bobby anymore.

I was very fortunate that this classroom TOTALLY embraced my method immediately!

The adults had been watching me for a few years and requested to have me in the room.

Not all adults are open to this way of responding. That’s why I model my methods instead of talking about it. I wait for the first two weeks and watch how the teachers are dealing with this issue. Then, as they get used to me and I see they are open to new information, I will explain what I’m doing as I am doing it. This gives the adults the chance to watch as I explain and they see the immediate results. As the year goes by, and I see the adults are doing what I’m modeling, I will invite them to join me and I support them as they try to use the skills. I find that I have the fastest positive results with the children when I work with adults–supporting them as they learn the skills I’m modeling,

This method can be used during in-home sessions as well as the classroom. I described using it in the classroom in this post, but I’ve used it in the home. It’s basically just a formula I perfected, then I adjust it to the situation.

Don’t forget to be genuine and calm when you pick up the child. Never be rough or do it in an aggressive manner.

Calm body = calm child

Remember to smile and enjoy your child. Look for positive things they’ve accomplished and always be genuine with your emotions. Smile and enjoy them and they will sense it and enjoy you too!