That Sweet Child Said What?

Imagine a sunny weekday morning at 9:15 am. You’re in a school teaching a thirty minute yoga class to 23 children ages 2 – 6 years old.  You’ve also got two other teachers in the room to assist during the class.

About 15 minutes into the class everyone is doing a forward bend when a three and a half year old calls out, “Miss Yoga! Look at Mary, she’s not doing the yoga pose.”

It was not unusual for this youngster to point out what the other children in the class are (or are not) doing. The irony that the child  is also not doing the pose is floating meters above their head.

But this child goes a step further to report the infraction and then add, “She’s not doing it, we should throw Mary in the garbage.”

Yikes, that’s definitely not yogic talk.

The Teacher’s Classroom Management Dilemma

How does a teacher discourage or redirect the behaviour they don’t want in yoga class?

In the moment I made my choice to deal with the bold statement, and so did the two other teachers who were in the room.  But the situation stuck with me. I resolved to get more options for the next time something like this happens.  After talking to a few other teachers here are some of the most popular options.


Teachers can laugh about sticky classroom management situations and discuss their choices as part of their training.

5 Strategies for Dealing with Inappropriate Classroom Behaviour

  1. Ignore the Negative Behaviour: pretend it didn’t happen, don’t draw attention to it, and focus on the positive things the child is doing. Especially when the child is regularly getting a rise out of the teachers.
  2. Quick Correct: “We don’t say that in this classroom.” Or a simple frown or shaking your head “no” or another gesture to indicate this is not acceptable without disrupting the flow of the class.
  3. Describe Your Feelings and Why This is a Problem:  “I’m upset to hear about throwing a person in the garbage.  We don’t throw people in the garbage.  The garbage is just for things because if you throw things in the garbage it doesn’t hurt them.  If a person is put in the garbage then it may hurt their body and their feelings.  If anyone ever says they are going to throw a person in the garbage, I don’t like it because garbage is not for people. Garbage is just for things.”
  4. Pretend the Child Intended to Do Something Positive: 3 1/2 year old children come from their heart more than their head.  Assume the remark was not meant to hurt someone, but was a poor attempt to get attention and be involved.  You could try a redirect saying: “Lets see if we can get everyone to join in by doing the yoga pose together.”
  5. Accept the Feeling But Stop the Unacceptable Behaviour: Consider responding with,”You really want everyone to do yoga, but the way to do that is to show them how much fun it is. Can you get your legs straight in this yoga pose?”

When a child utters an unacceptable statement, the teacher only has a moment to decide what to do.

It is when things are quiet, when twenty eyes are not watching you, and when you wonder if there is a better approach that a teacher can contemplate other options.

What kind of things do kids say or do that challenge you as a teacher/parent? If a child made this unacceptable statement around you, what response would you choose and why?

Please share your ideas in the comments.

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  1. Great topic, thank you. I find it’s always so helpful to discuss issues like this with other kids yoga instructors–it’s a great source of support (and ideas). I’ve found that usually it’s a matter of a child doing something mean out of frustration/anger and usually on impulse. What I’ve done is make eye contact with the child and said firmly, “That is not ok.” or “That is inappropriate.” More often than not the child absorbed the fact that they did something unkind and apologized or immediately switched gears and did fine for the rest of the class. It helped them see that they could make a mistake, take responsibility for it, but still be loved and accepted in the class.

    • Thanks for the comment Megan, and I agree its great to be able to talk about this and hear ideas from other teachers. : )

  2. Hi Aruna,

    Great post! I have a quick question regarding your blog. Could you privately e-mail me? Thanks!


  3. I’m not a mom or a teacher, so I really admire people who have the quick mind to come up with an appropriate response like that. (Also? Kids say the darndest things!) Saw you on SITS today. 🙂

  4. I used to teach a Sunday School class with young children. One of them struggled with ADHD. I had been warned about him. Other teachers had complained about him. I loved him. And I wanted him to feel it.

    So the first time he was difficult in class, and one of the girls in class said we should kick him out until he was ready to behave (as so many other teachers had done), I said, “That’s not how we run our class. It’s his class, too, and I want him here. Just like I want all of you here.” And that was the end of it. You should have seen that boy’s face; I’m fairly certain it was the first time a teacher openly wanted him in their classroom. He felt valued. The girl didn’t feel shamed but understood where I stood. He has grown by leaps and bounds. He takes responsibility for his own behavior, even when it’s bad. And he knows that he is loved.

    Stopping by from SITS. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

    • missrobin – what a beautiful comment. We need more teachers like this – for everyone’s sake. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I think this is good advice for both in the classroom and dealing with toddlers/children outside the classroom. I especially like your suggestion “Pretend the Child Intended to Do Something Positive” because of the way it transforms a negative moment into something potentially more beautiful and community driven.

    Thanks for sharing! I’m visiting from the Saturday Sharefest, and I’ll be back!

    • Thanks for the comment Anna. I enjoyed seeing the pictures of your kids playing at the water park on your blog. I’m sure with two young children you have your share of these kinds of moments. I agree its wonderful when we can transform the negative into something more beautiful.