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De-escalating in the classroom

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January 03, 2024


Processing it + 3 tips.

It’s the end of the year, and EVERYONE is feeling the ending energy of the year. Thanksgiving quite literally gave us a sweet taste of the long-awaited holiday season. With this buzzing energy comes intense manifested energy from your students. Leaving you and everyone on edge!

Let us help you de-escalate and channel that overwhelming holiday energy into something extra powerful and less distracting.

De-escalating is hard. We get it! It may be a constant part of your daily dynamic or it may be a less common happening. Whatever the case, let’s establish and turn our attention to quick problem-solving de-escalating tactics!

The reason your student is having a tantrum is a result of a thought, energy, or stressed pattern that’s causing a physical reaction. So, let’s start by first addressing their inner dilemma.

  1. Address their name.
  2. State that you see them.
  3. Ask them to take a few deep breaths. Breathwork is a powerful first step in de-escalading. Model that for them.
  4. Ask them, “Help me understand you.”

A few more prompts

– “What do you need?”

– “Can we take a moment over here and talk about this?”

– “What’s bothering you?”

 – “Can you point to what’s bothering you?”

On the other hand:


“Don’t do that!!”

“Knock it off!”

Words like the ones mentioned above can make matters worse. 

Often times we go into conflict wanting to immediately dissolve—which makes sense. It’s easy to go into de-escalating with action words like, “Stop!” “Knock it off!” “Hey!”. You have to try your best to avoid harsh words or intonation when expressing concern. As the teacher, you can either make or break the de-escalating process. We want to work WITH, and not against the blow-up. The child may be used to different styles of reprimand at home, so be mindful that the child might not be used to this kind of approach.

Depending on the child, you may need to use more clarifying word choices. A lot of the time the child is seeking to be affirmed or needing attention. Or there is another conflict or situation involving another student.  If that is the case, do your best to separate the conflict. If it’s a peer conflict, quickly get to the root of what’s going on. The more questions you ask about how they are feeling, the better.

Sometimes the students just need someone to give some attention. Try and identify early warning signs and know how to intervene before they happen. Are you thinking about environmental factors that may be triggering a meltdown? There’s a lot that goes into it, try your best to be in tune with the energy of your student and the classroom.

At the end of the day, don’t feel steered away from a logical consequence if needed. Remember a child is still empowered to make their own choice, they just may not like the consequence. Thinking of consequences that could also be beneficial to the growth of the child is important. You can Google a plethora of activities.

Some ending tips:

  1. I would first try morning meditations for starting the day off on a good foot. Include breathwork as well! There are SO many free guided meditations you can find on YouTube.  
  2. Give students the chance to be a leader in something. A lot of the time they are looking to be in control, maybe take it as an opportunity to let them showcase that need for attention. Line leader? Morning leader? Table leader? End of the day leader? Classroom roles and responsibilities are SO fun for them.
  3. Allow for movement in the classroom. I remember subbing in a classroom that LOVED watching YouTube videos that “got the silly’s out”. When I noticed the class getting restless, I found fun sing-along songs to play in between transitions.
  4. It’s important to establish a routine for the kids. Start with a really solid morning routine and end of the day routine so that students can find security in structure. It may be the only structure they participate in all day.
  5. It’s important to establish a routine for the kids. Start with a really solid morning routine and end of the day routine so that students can find security in structure. It may be the only structure they participate in all day.
  6. Keep some snacks on deck. I know this is a controversial one, but sometimes escalation comes from a lack of adequate nutrition. Where the child is hungry, sugared out, or straight up dehydrated, provide a snack that can tie them over until the next mealtime. Some good options: banana, pretzels, pita chips, applesauce, carrot sticks, and hummus. keeping a little something extra for the kiddos is never a bad idea. Also, encourage water drinking!

At the end of the day, you know your students best! Take what tips you can and try them this week, it may help you more than you think!


  • hes-extraordinary.com
  • interventioncentral.org


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a passionate special education teacher with [number] years of experience, uses her classroom knowledge to craft engaging stories that celebrate the unique strengths of all learners.