12 Don’t Get So Upset!
rather than yet another set of instructions about the right way to
do it—external strategies or techniques designed to fix children’s
Many years ago a friend gave me a poster featuring words writ-
ten by Haim Ginott, the child psychologist I wrote about earlier, who
had influenced me in the early 1970s. I still have these words hang-
ing up in my office. They accompany me as I work with families,
children, and their teachers. I give them out to everyone I know,
and I share them with you now.
I’ve come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive
element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that
creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the
weather. As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make
a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture
or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor,
hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides
whether a crisis will be escalated or deescalated and a child
humanized or dehumanized.
Being a teacher of young children is the most powerful profes-
sion I know. It comes with an awesome responsibility: it is up to
us to offer children different options, new ways to solve problems,
models of kindness and compassion, and relationships that will
reinforce and develop a strong, positive emotional self-identity.
So many times I have looked into the eyes of a child who is angry,
bewildered, or frustrated, or who has given up the fight altogether,
and I see myself, recognize those feelings, or remember the anxiety
from somewhere deep in my own childhood psyche. Have we for-
gotten so soon that once we were children too?