As a subscriber to the Fred Rogers Professional Development Company , I often receive  emails giving good advice and direction.  With the second week of school behind us,  a few teachers struggled as they are getting to know  the young children in the classroom.  Maybe this could help.  What do you think?  Can it help you?  How can this give us pause to look at our language as we work with those who “push our buttons”?

What Do YOU Do with the Mad that You Feel? 
By Hedda Sharapan

I had to laugh when I saw a draft of the publicity for my upcoming keynote for an early childhood conference.  The title read:“What do you do with the mad that you feel?” The speech is based on Fred Rogers’ song with that title, but they had forgotten to include the next line: “Helping children deal with their angry feelings.”  If you don’t add the second line, it sounds like my whole talk is about the adults’ angry feelings.

Well, maybe that’s not so funny — to think about a workshop on dealing with our own adult angry feelings.  Actually that’s something that could be really helpful, especially for people who work all day with young children.  Think about how you’re spending your day — with toddlers and/or preschoolers who don’t yet have much self-control, can’t yet use words to tell you what they need and how they feel, can’t delay gratification, think what’s “mine” is “me,” and find it hard to take turns and cooperate!  No wonder their behavior can push your buttons!

Fred always reminded us that anger is a natural and normal human emotion – for us adults, too!  In fact, it’s often a reaction to feeling powerless.  I certainly can understand how children can make a grown adult feel powerless – especially an adult who wants to be helpful.

The question is “What we DO with our anger?”  I remember Fred Rogers’ story about when he was working with children and had an especially difficult time dealing with a child who challenged him every step of the way.  Fred said, “It almost seemed that he wanted me to be mad at him, and I must say there were times I got so frustrated with him I felt as though I was acting like someone else.”  After learning more about the boy and his family, Fred was able to see things from a different perspective: “Once I understood that, I stopped feeling as if that little boy was out to get me, I saw him rather as a scared child who needed help to feel safe.”

That story reminded me of a video from our Learning DisciplineWorkshop featuring early childhood professionals who found a helpful perspective: “It’s not about me…it’s about the child.”

Professional Development Video

Here are some other helpful hints:

  • Count to ten.  When we’re upset, stress hormones pour into our system, and the “thinking” part of our brain shuts down.  Counting to ten and breathing deeply can lower the stress hormones, so we can think more clearly.
  • Don’t take it personally.  When you think of a child as “out to get you,” it’s natural to get defensive.  But if you think of that child as needing your help to learn social-emotional skills, like self-control and self-regulation, you’re likely to react in a more nurturing way.
  • Lower your voice and slow down. By lowering your voice, you’ll be setting a quieter, calmer tone that helps the child to settle down.
  • Be a detective. Challenging behaviors don’t come out of nowhere.  Look for patterns.  Try to understand more about the child.  Spend one-on-one time. Try to learn more about the child’s background. The reasons aren’t always obvious, but at least be there to help support the child.

  • Look for professional development opportunities. Knowledge can help you understand more about children’s needs and feelings so you can respond in helpful, developmentally-appropriate ways.
  • Take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep at night so you’ll have the emotional energy to deal with the children.  Do something nice for yourself – even something small can go a long way to helping you refuel.



The Art and Science of Play | Psychology Today.

If we know that play is children’s work, how do we make that visible to others?  In making it visible, does it give play the “respect” it deserves?  Do parents understand how important this is?  Do they see the connection to further learning? If not, what can you do about it?


It would be hard to trust gardening advice from someone whose own garden was an overgrown weed patch,” observes Nancy Rosenow in the opening of the newest book in the Exchange Store, Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature.  Rosenow continues…

How can we help children see the world is a place of goodness and unlimited possibilities if we experience it as dreary and stifling?  How can children trust us about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise if they don’t choose to practice what we preach?  How will we help children learn the difficult art of conflict resolution if bitter conflicts in our own relationships remain unresolved?  How can we help children discover nature’s gifts of joy and wonder if we rarely delight in those gifts ourselves?  And perhaps the hardest question of all:  How will we help children experience themselves as unconditionally loved and loving beings if we don’t feel unconditionally loving toward ourselves?”





“Babies and young children are like the R&D division of the human species,” says psychologist Alison Gopnik. Her research explores the sophisticated intelligence-gathering and decision-making that babies are really doing when they play.


Alison Gopnik takes us into the fascinating minds of babies and children, and shows us how much we understand before we even realize we do.


via Alison Gopnik: What do babies think? | Video on



David Hawkins, director of the Mountain View Center for Environmental Education, discusses the role of Teacher as learner.  “Good teaching requires the teacher’s own involvement in learning, ” he maintains.

Read the interview and let me know what you think?  David and Frances Hawkins were instrumental in young children’s learning connected to environment.

Jean Piaget: founder of Constructivism

Jean Piaget 



“What unifies constructivists across the board, is the notion that children are active builders of their own cognitive tools, as well as of their external realities.  In other words, knowledge and the world are both construed and interpreted through action, and mediated through tool- and symbol use.  Each gains existence and form through the construction of the other. In Piaget’s worlds:”intelligence organizes the world by organizing itself ” (Piaget, 1937, p. 311). What’s more,  knowledge, to constructivists, is not a mere commodity to be transmitted—delivered at one end,encoded, retained, and re-applied at the other. Likewise, the world is not just sitting out there waiting to be uncovered, but gets progressively shaped and reshaped as people interact with it.

Most psychologists and educators of constructivist obedience indeed would agree that learning is less about acquiring information or transmitting existing ideas or values, than it is about individually and collectively imagining and creating a world in which it is worth living.” (Constructivism(s): Shared roots, crossed paths, multiple legacies – a brilliant overview of constructivism and constructionism by Edith Ackerman)

As we think about a world worth living, remind yourself that you are shaping the world as you interact with it.  That includes young children! That is a huge responsibility and privilege!

Have you given thought to what you believe, how children build knowledge? Take some time to revisit  educational philosophies. Are your beliefs in line with beliefs and values of the school or center where you work? Have some deep conversations with co workers.  What do they believe?

“One of the essential attributes of a good teacher — from preschool through graduate school — is the disposition to respect learners,” observes Lilian Katz in her book, Intellectual Emergencies: Some Reflections on Mothering and Teaching.  She explains…

“I suggest that to respect the learner means, among other things, attributing to the learner positive qualities, intentions, and expectations, even when the available evidence may cast doubts on the learner’s possession of these attributes.  A respectful relationship between the teacher and the learner is marked also by treating learners with dignity, listening closely and attentively to what the learners say, as well as looking for what they seem reluctant to say.  Respect also includes treating the learners as sensible persons, even though that assumption sometimes requires a stretch of the teacher’s imagination.  When it comes to young children this element of respect implies that we should resist the temptation to talk to young children in silly sweet voices, heaping empty praise on them, and giving them certificates indicating that smiling bear believes they are special.  This disrespectful strategy makes a mockery of teaching.  After all, teaching is about helping learners to make better, deeper, and fuller sense of their experience and to derive deep satisfaction from the processes of doing so.  Education, after all, is not about amusement, excitement, or entertainment.”