Preschoolers, Christmas Emotions, and ‘Gloria’

The emotional roller coaster of preschoolers is in full swing at Christmastime.  Tears, yelling, hitting, not sharing – it all surfaces at this time.   I’m there to help them navigate the waters and make things right.  In the end, children ‘move on’, quickly.  I am convinced the source of ‘Forgive and Forget’ must have been founded with young children.

Here is a classic example of how it goes:

A child is crying, wailing, on the playground.  This is a child who never cries, so it must be important.

“What happened?”

“She hit me with the shovel.”

It was a hard hit.  Did I reprimand the aggressor?  No.

I looked to make sure the victim was okay, but first I made sure the aggressor was there beside me, watching and listening.  She needed to see the care I gave to her victim.

Then I turned to her.  “How can you make this right?”

Now, this is big!  The turning point.  She hasn’t been punished, she has been empowered to ‘fix it.’

And she does.  She asks her victim, “Are you okay?”

He shakes his head yes.

“What do you need?”

“I need a hug.”

The two children hug like long lost friends.  Then they run off to play together.

I must say, we adults can take a long and hard lesson on how children bounce back.

This is how children develop empathy and understanding.  You have to be in the middle of a conflict to work your way out.  Hands-on learning is far more than feeling and touching objects – it’s feeling and touching others.

And in the classroom?  Yes, the same emotions are happening.  At our Morning Meeting, things were at a peak.  I looked at Gloria, sitting and holding a favorite book.  I yelled to her.

“Gloria.  I hear you.  You look sad.  Do you want to say something?”

I looked worried.  Children could sense something was not right with Gloria.  She came to Morning Meeting and told the children how she was feeling.  Actually, she poured her heart out.  She didn’t like the arguing she was hearing.  So, she laid it out, told the children how she felt.

This was empowering.  Because Gloria is beloved, children listened and cared.  They understood.  They changed.  Gloria is an angel.  She joined us as we read a wonderful Christmas book, “Apple Tree Christmas.”

And, we decorated a tree over and over again.  Do you see the book on the shelf?  “Peter and the Wolf.”  It is the best introduction to music and instruments.  We listened to the CD, and worked hard to hear the violin, the clarinet, the oboe, French horn, and more.

“Where words fail, music speaks.”
~Hans Christian Andersen~


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in behavior, Expressing words and feelings, Giving, Gloria, Inspiration, Kindness, music, preschool, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to Preschoolers, Christmas Emotions, and ‘Gloria’

  1. Darlene says:

    I so loved this post and how you handled the stress in the classroom and playground. The Christmas spirit is above and well in your classroom! Sending Christmas hugs to you, Gloria and all the children. xo

  2. Ritu says:

    This is a wonderful learning opportunity 🥰

  3. beth says:

    I love this and we do something very similar in my room. when someone is hurt by another, emotionally or physically, purposely or accidentally, they go to the person they hurt and ask,’are you okay?’, no matter how they answer, they then ask ‘what can I do to make it better?’ . I find this much more meaningful and sincere, than the old standard, saying ‘I’m sorry’ automatically, without any meaning or making things better. children quickly catch on to this, and it is lovely to see them begin to do this independently.

  4. beetleypete says:

    Gloria should be ‘franchised’ into every classroom around the world. Those little ones learn so much from her wisdom.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  5. quiall says:

    You are wise Jennie. You are allowing your children to ‘see’, not just blindly react. I would love to know what will blossom in twenty or thirty years from the seeds you have planted. I think it will be a better world.

  6. One of the things I most appreciate about your posts (among many!) is that they give me hope for the future in those children.

  7. I love how you handled the conflict, Jennie. I also like the idea of decorating the tree over and over. If I were a kid I’d be there for each redo. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Dan Antion says:

    You handle things so well, Jennie. Keeping the kids together makes it much easier. Separate them and discipline one, starts building the wall between them. You really are the best.

  9. cindy knoke says:

    “Tears, yelling, hitting, not sharing – it all surfaces at this time. ”
    My goodness…This really does sound like President Trump. Can you fix him Jennie??? 😉 😉
    Merry Christmas my friend.

  10. A beautiful example of what love is all about, Jennie… 💞 Sending lots of love and Happy Christmas wishes to you, Gloria and all our precious little ones!

  11. I read this aloud to my daughter this morning as I take a quiet moment before getting back to the work of Christmas. It moved me so. I wish I could send this to every teacher and parent of small children. I wish I had known this when my children were small.

    • Jennie says:

      My goodness. That is wonderful, Marlene. I also wish I had known this when my kids were little. It really gives children the power to make things right, and to be accountable for what they do. Thank you so much! I can picture you reading this aloud. 🥰

  12. I love that you use Gloria to help the children see how their moods and emotions effect the feel of the classroom environment. I train my students to go through these steps. I’m sorry that I ______. What can I do to make you feel better? When they have mastered this we work on adding in I should have____. before asking what they can do to fix it. We want the children to see they have/had control over this situation. I should have asked for the blocks. I should have used my words.

  13. A. L. Kaplan says:

    You are an inspiring teacher. Thank you.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    My stepchildren had been forced by their mother to say sorry to each other. It was rarely genuine and didn’t heal the breach. It took many years before one of my stepdaughters learned to be genuinely remorseful since she hadn’t had a chance to experience that as a child. Your approach is much kinder.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Elizabeth. Saying sorry is like a ‘get out of jail’ for free card. The younger the child, the more s/he needs this approach. I’m glad one of your stepdaughters learned to be remorseful later on. It’s never too late.

  15. Good old Gloria (with Jennie’s voice talking for her). She knows just how to handle everything. Great job, Jennie. Your class is so lucky to have you.

  16. You and Gloria are wonderful. Thanks Jennie.

  17. petespringerauthor says:

    As usual, you nailed it. First off, this time of year always seems to bring extra stress and emotion to the forefront. I have to assume that some children may bring some of the extra stress they’re feeling from home. So many people are out of work, can’t gather with their families, and may not be able to afford much of a Christmas. Involving both children was the key to deescalating this situation. Rather than looking for some punitive measure, you resolved this with the kids making up and learning something in the process.

    Jennie, you also hit on one of my strongest beliefs—many adults, especially in these high-charged political times, could take a lesson from kids. Children have their share of problems, but they don’t hold grudges, and they know how to forgive. I’m not surprised how beautifully you handled this. Using Gloria was the icing on the cake.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Pete! You always ‘get it’, and know the whys behind every story. Watching the kids hug and run off to play on the playground minutes after the conflict (that they fixed on their own) is something every adult needs to witness. Holding onto anger is damaging, yet that’s what people do. Like you said, in this year that’s politically charged and a pandemic, children are exposed to so much negativity at home. Oh, and throw Christmas into the mix. No wonder they behave this way.

      Gloria is something else. She knows when to step in, and children listen. No wonder she is well loved.

      Your kind and well written words are near and dear to me, Pete. Really. Thank you!

  18. Annika Perry says:

    Jennie, a heartwarming post and it’s wonderful how much the children are taught by you and they teach us! You handled the upset between the two with gentle finesse and you are right to let them see which is the best way to resolve it and become firm friends. Ahhh … Gloria! I’m glad she got to talk to the class … expressing no doubt what so many of the children feel, worry about. I love the quote at the end … so true! Always music!

  19. Genius way to resolve conflict.💕Your kids are so lucky to have you.

  20. dgkaye says:

    You are an earth angel Jennie. That’s how you do it! A wonderful lesson shared that I hope many can take in. ❤

  21. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, You are an extraordinary teacher! Thank you for this lesson.

  22. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Please read this wonderful lesson from the excellent teacher, Jennie!

  23. I have always wondered why there are not more “parenting” classes where conflict resolution and emotional management is not taught… It seems to be our cultural Achilles’ heel — judging from our ulcer culture…and high incidence of family dysfunction..

  24. Norah says:

    Beautiful, Jennie. Learning in the moment. Perfect.

  25. Gloria, the Christmas ambassador. 😉 Or should we say Mrs. Santa?:-)) You are having a very great style bringing all the things “under one hat”, Jennie! You are definitely the best! Michael

  26. Olivia Ava says:

    That is amazing. Loved it💙.

  27. This way of teaching children not to hurt one another is excellent, Jennie. I’ve learned a new approach. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas, even if you are celebrating separately.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Robbie. The approach is successful and healthy for children. Merry Christmas to you and your family. I hope you can be with your mother, too.

  28. I love this message from both you and Gloria. You both are treasures.

    I wish you and yours and very Merry Christmas!

  29. Ren says:

    Thank you, Jennie, for the insightful way you handled the shovel incident. I have learned much from this and it will come in handy. And much gratitude to Gloria for voicing how she really was feeling. This has given me some great ideas. Hugz

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