Kindergarten Student and Tantrums


I am a kindergarten teacher who highly recommends your book whenever the subject of discipline arises. Today I told one of my students who hit another child, “I want you to stay in our classroom, but if you act on Level B again, you are telling me that you want to keep on making your own rules for the class. We can’t accept that, so you may stay in the classroom only if your behavior is at Level C or D.”

When he began to harass another child, I made it a point to remain matter-of-fact, and said to him, “You have again decided to make your own rules for the class, so you have chosen to spend time in another room.” As I was getting ready to take him, he began to throw a LOUD tantrum. I didn’t want to make a scene, so I left him at his seat. I feel this was a big mistake. What do you suggest I should have done?


Next time, ASK (rather than TELL) the student if he wants to stay in the classroom. Then ASK him on what level he would need to behave to remain in the class.

If he again lets his impulses direct his behavior, say to him that he allowed to again let his impulses control him.

Then ASK him, “What do you suggest we do about it?” Be ready to ask “What else?” “What else?” “What else?” until he comes up with something that will help him not repeat the offense.

If he says, “I don’t know,” challenge and empower him with a statement like, “As capable as you are, I don’t believe you can’t figure something out. Let’s give it another try. What do you suggest we do?”

Come up with a procedure. Anything—as long as it is simple for him to do, e.g., stand up and sit down, stand and turn around, take a deep gasp of breath through his mouth and  hold it as long as he can—something that will distract his impulsivity.

If the student pulls a tantrum again, say, “Don’t worry about what will happen when you act this way. I’ll get back to you later.” The youngster will immediately stop the tantrum and start worrying about what will happen.

Regarding the rest of the class, don’t be concerned about them. They understand the situation. Have a class meeting later with the child present. Put the problem to the class, since it is a class problem. Have a discussion on “What do you suggest we do to help ….(name of student).” The students will come up with creative  ideas for the student in question. In addition, the student will quickly become aware that the behavior is now affecting everyone else involved in the meeting.




Learning a procedure to respond appropriately to impulses is described on the Impulse Management link.