Saturday, November 6, 2010

Temper Tantrums: A Montessori Perspective

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

This is an article from a Montessori teacher in which she highlights some of the ways she deals with temper tantrums. Perhaps something here may be helpful to you or someone you know insha'Allaah.

Toddlers Who are Not Yet Peaceful

Toddlers and tantrums tend to go hand in hand, and it is important to remember that this phase will pass. A temper tantrum is usually a result of the child not being able to effectively express himself verbally, which leads to intense frustration.

I have had young Montessori students over the years who battle with temper tantrums; it can be a helpless feeling for the Montessori teacher at times, especially when you feel like you have tried everything! I have found that the more consistent you can be, the quicker the phase passes.

It is vital to figure out what works for the individual child. Here are a few examples to give you some further insight into different situations and how they may be handled by the Montessori teacher. As is often suggested for positive discipline, offering limited choices in a positive way can be effective. One little girl falls apart if someone looks at her the wrong way but she settles right down if she is able to regroup in the reading corner with a book and the reading teddy. A little boy falls to the floor every time he is reminded to tuck in his chair or roll up his mat, however, the quieter I say it, the better he responds. If I speak to him in almost a whisper, he is more than happy to go back and tuck his chair or roll his mat - I think he feels less threatened when the request is made in a very subtle, soft manner.

It is important not to “buy into” the tantrum … a little boy who just turned three throws a fit constantly, no matter how you phrase your request … he crosses his arms, stomps his feet and makes a noisy huff over and over again. For this young student, it works to look him in the eye, acknowledge that he is feeling frustrated and give him the choice of talking to me with his words or taking a few minutes to calm down by sitting in his cubby. He almost always chooses to sit in his cubby and when he feels ready, we then talk about the situation and I help him deal with whatever it is that is upsetting him. That few minutes to regroup are huge for him!

Temper tantrums are usually dramatic, intense and full of emotion. With a calm demeanor, patience and persistence, you can almost always help diffuse the drama of a temper tantrum and change the situation to a calm, quiet discussion. It is important to stay calm, keep control and maintain peace.

A few strategies that I implement in my Montessori preschool classroom are as follows. Please remember, it is vital to choose a strategy that is in tune with the child’s individual personality and needs:

  • Maintain a consistent routine ... the more predictable your routine is, the easier it is for a child who is prone to temper tantrums.
  • Provide a warning before transitions. I have two little girls who really struggle with transition times, so I always give them a quiet warning several minutes ahead of time and it works beautifully. For example, “I am going to turn the music on in five minutes for clean up time, so you have five more minutes to continue working.” If I forget the warning, they fall apart!
  • Observe and be in tune with escalating frustration levels ... intervene before the tantrum occurs.
  • Offer choices so that the child feels he has some control over the situation. Keep the choices limited to accomplishing the task at hand. For example, “Would you like to put your coat on yourself or would you like some help?” or, “It is time to tidy up. Would you like to roll up the floor mat or would you like to put the puzzle on the shelf?”
  • Distractions and redirections work wonders with little ones.
  • Try to avoid the word, ‘no’ as it adds to a toddler’s frustration. Instead, use phrases like ‘later’ or ‘after lunch’.
  • Be aware of stressors that may require extra empathy (toilet training, starting daycare, etc). A little empathy goes a long way when a child is feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
  • Say something positive before making your request of the child, and make the request almost a challenge: “Johnnie, you worked so hard today with the Pink Tower, but I see that your mat is still on the floor. Let’s see how tight you can roll it” or “Marisa, you remembered to put your pouring work away, but I see your chair needs to be pushed in. Let’s see how quietly you can do it.”
  • Respect and acknowledge the child’s feelings, “I know you are feeling angry………, That must have made you feel really sad when…….” When children receive verbal assurance that their feelings are important and acknowledged, they gradually learn to put those feelings into words instead of acting out.
Most children do grow out of the need for tantrums when they have more language skills and understanding. But the way you deal with them in the toddler years is important. If they are handled harshly, or if you constantly ignore a child’s feelings and need for comfort, they may well become worse and carry on for a much longer period of time.

From: North American Montessori Center:


  1. As salamu aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

    Mashaa Allah, very interesting...jazaki Allahu for sharing it!! *smile*

  2. Waalaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

    wa iyaki. Jazakillahu khayr *smile*. I am curious, are there any part(s) you did not agree with or perhaps you know of a method that you feel may be more effective insha'Allaah? I'd be very interested in your insight insha'Allaah.

  3. As salamu aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

    Mashaa Allah, I think this kind of pedagogy can be effective and I'm agree with each of the points highlighted above. Only I think sometimes it's not easy " figure out what works for the individual child". This is the crucial point: to be able to recognize the best method of approaching. And sometimes the personality of the child has so much nuances that it becomes difficult for the educator (parents/teachers). So, I think I have to learn about it insha Allah (especially with regard to my daughter...she has a very particular temperament and I admit I'm often not capable to conduct it, astaghfirullah).

    ...and what do you think about this beneficial article insha Allah?! *smile*

    Any suggest for me about my daughter insha Allah?! She is too similar to me and this create many "battles" between us, mashaa Allah: we are very stubborn, astaghfirullah. And then she misses a paternal figure.

    Sorry for my letting off steam and barak'Allahu fiki ukhti. *smile*

  4. I would want some advise for my 4years old boy. He seems to never listen, he is feeling left out since we had our daughter..he loves her so much but there are some times he wants him n him...and its drives me nuts..any tips to control my anger and all...

  5. Waalaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

    Sis Mujahida, first, I am sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your comment. I've fallen sooo far behind subhana'Allaah *smile*.

    With regard to your daughter, as you said, it is not always easy because each child is unique and it is not always easy to know what exactly set the tantrum in motion.

    One of the things that I see parents and teachers do (because it is so easy to fall into this...we sometimes don't even see ourselves doing it subhana'Allaah), is to engage in a back and forth discussion/argument with the child. What I mean by this is that the child is screaming/yelling/demanding and the parent gets flustered and begins doing something quite similar, if not identical, and this sends a strong message to a child that if continually repeated, can undermine the authority of the parent. This type of behaviour from a parent or teacher tells a child that it is okay to argue with you, scream at you, disrespect you, etc. and this moves the parent/teacher to the level of the child they are dealing with. A child learns not to respect this type of adult after this behaviour repeats itself...waallaahu a'lam. A teacher/parent who is able to maintain self-control and resists engaging in back and forth battles (verbal) sends the message that, "I am more than willing to help you but I cannot do so unless and until you are able to calm down...period." The conversation stops there. The child knows that his/her tantrum is not going to illicit the desired effect and they calm down insha'Allaah. This of course, is much easy to say than do *smile* and it takes time. We must also remember to model the ways of handling anger that our Prophet Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa salam) taught us. When a child sees this, we are showing them the proper way to deal with frustration.

    In a classroom setting it can be slightly easier b/c from the first days of school, the teacher sets the tone of the class and the students learn what the teacher will and will not tolerate. Ultimately, it is up to the parent or teacher to be the one to maintain self-control. If we lose it, then we have modeled to the child that when things don't go your way, it is ok to behave this way, when in fact it is not.

    As it was mentioned above, we do not need to ignore the child completely because we do need to let them know that we are there to help, however, we do need to provide positive ways for children to deal with their anger (while not showing our own as our tempers escalate...not always Again, teaching children the way the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa salam) instructed us to deal with anger is best. If you see that the situation is really just getting out of control or nearing that point, pause and tell your child calmly, "Subhana'Alllah, wait. Anger is from the shaytaan. Our prophet taught us to make wudu when our anger gets this way. Would you like to go and make wudu with me insha'Allaah? I think it would help both of us insha'Allaah."

    Some classrooms have a peace table while others have a chair that is in an area that is very soothing and calm. There is a plant and nice picture and nice floor rug for example. Children are invited to use this area to reign in their emotions.

    We must continue to ask Allaah to aide us and make our children from among the saliheen and those children who have birr-ul-walidayn. Du'a is so very important and we must continue to make du'a for our children. We must also ask Allaah to help us to be righteous slaves and from among those who follow the Quran and Sunnah as the Salaf-as-Salih understood and practiced it....there can only be success, in all matters, through following this path.

    My apologies for the long post.

    Jazakillahu Khayr dear sis

  6. Assalamu alaikum,

    sis Amna, from the points mentioned in the post, have all of those methods failed to provide a positive outcome?

    Also, when you say "he never seems to listen", can you provide an example perhaps insha'Allaah?

    If you would feel more comfortable emailing this to me directly that is not a problem (email:

    If there is any assistance I can provide, for the Sake of Allaah, I will be happy to do so.

    Jazakillahu khayr.


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