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3 Steps for Kids to Use in Tough Social or Emotional Situations

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

As a classroom teacher, I witnessed social circumstances kids created or were involved in that were tricky to manage. When frustrated with an assignment, I've seen students wad up

their paper and throw it across the room, usually in tears of rage. I've seen students bite, hit, slam, scratch, pull hair, pound a desk, run out of the room, or tear papers when something set off a big emotion. The trigger was sometimes a look, something someone said, a cut in line, an accidental or intentional kick, an unwanted touch, or a time when they couldn't find an assignment in their desk.


When children face occurrences that elicit big emotions, they must have a toolbox of options because kids want peace. Yes, I know. Kids are developing their awareness of their own emotions and how to manage myriad new situations. Therefore, they can't possibly contain their big feelings. Well, this is different from my experience.


As a teacher, I worked with students to develop strategies to mitigate or manage explosive situations with peace and grace. But please make no mistake; it took patience, time, and practice for kids to learn to manage their feelings and response to glide through the situation with greater confidence and poise. Creating awareness and encouraging the practice of the three decisive steps can make all the difference.


When children face occurrences that elicit big emotions, they must have a toolbox of options because kids want peace. The Triangle of TriumphTM is a tool that can be used by anyone, anywhere, at any age.


When your child has a conflict with another child at school, experiences a personal defeat or setback, or other situation that brings on big emotions, they can use the Triangle of TriumphTM to manage their behavior and response to glide through the problem with greater confidence and poise. However, creating awareness and encouraging the practice of the three decisive steps can make all the difference.



When your child has a conflict with another child at school, experiences a personal defeat or setback, or other situation that brings on big emotions, they can use the Triangle of TriumphTM to manage their behavior and response to glide through the situation with greater confidence and poise.

The 3 Steps of the Triangle of Triumph Strategy of Managing Big Emotions


1. Hit pause and take three deep breaths - As a child learns to recognize that a situation is stirring up big emotions, they can also learn to STOP AND BREATHE. This brief pause is the beginning of taking charge of how they feel and how they want to respond. It is empowering and essential for a child to know they have choices for responding to situations that elicit uncomfortable feelings. Teachers and parents are responsible for guiding children to learn behaviors that contribute to situation resolution, not volatility.


2. Feel and identify your emotions - This action is challenging for many kids. Often they are not sure of how or what they are feeling. Patience, understanding, and allowing a child to talk about their emotions is a move in a positive direction to help them create this type of personal awareness. I've suggested words or shown illustrations of emotional faces to help a child reflect on what they are experiencing if they cannot describe it. Sometimes, they know precisely and don't need or want help with that process. When a child can identify what they feel, I encourage them to let the feeling be with them for the moment. Acknowledging and feeling their emotions proactively contributes to their self-awareness. The next time they have a similar experience, they will recognize it and learn to manage it more effectively.


3. Consider your options and select a positive plan of action to manage the situation - To promote success and be proactive with kids, it is essential to have them create a list of positive actions from which they can choose to manage a situation. I like to be a part of this process. I start by having students list causes at school that may create big emotions in a column on the left side of the page. Next, we would brainstorm ideas in detail that were options for a positive action plan. By creating this visual quasi-flowchart, students could refer to it anytime they needed to when experiencing overwhelming feelings. This activity can be done at the beginning of the school year as a whole class learning experience. However, I found that as the year progressed, the lists could be refined and personalized for students who wanted or needed more assistance with social and emotional situations where they felt out of control.


Teaching kids to understand their feelings and how to manage socially or emotionally challenging situations brings peace to them and their classmates. It is an important skill to learn or school and life.

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