Introduction 5
about behavior management.” During my workshops and presenta-
tions about discipline at conferences and in-service trainings, I have
hardly managed to complete the introduction when teachers of
young children begin to ask for solutions and answers. They ask me
for strategies and prescriptions. They want me to tell them exactly
what to do when a child bites, hits, refuses to clean up, answers
back, throws a tantrum, or does not follow directions. Many ex-
press feeling helpless or frustrated with young children’s behaviors
they consider challenging.

Usually I start off a workshop or presentation by asking partici-
pants or students to describe how they were disciplined as young
children. We write the list of punishments on the board or flipchart
and uncover that most of the attendees experienced some kind of
pain or humiliation when they were young children. Parents have
scolded, slapped, pinched, yelled at, or threatened them—and those
were the milder punishments! Many in the audience express resent-
ment from these experiences.

I cannot help but wonder how those earliest memories have
affected the very people who will be disciplining children in their
care. At a recent in-service training of early childhood teachers, we
talked deeply and sincerely about the way we were disciplined and
how it affects our behaviors in the classroom. I watched teachers
and caregivers as they bared their deepest fears and anxieties, some
weeping as they realized how many of these feelings were affecting
their classroom management strategies and, more importantly, their
sometimes misguided perceptions about children. It was powerful,
and I was inspired by their courage. Like many teachers, I want to
give children what I never had. For others, their early childhood
memories about discipline are satisfactory enough that they want
to repeat what they experienced. Clearly, our own emotional devel-
opment in childhood, or ways we were guided or punished, affects

6 Don’t Get So Upset!
how we feel about what to do with children whose behaviors chal-
lenge us.

In The Emotional Development of Young Children: Building
an Emotion-Centered Curriculum, Marilou Hyson describes the
dangers of neglecting emotions. After reviewing the research about
young children’s emotions, she summarizes several points, including
that emotions guide and motivate behavior “from infancy through-
out life,” and that all emotions, whether negative or positive, are
important for development. Hyson goes on to say:
“ An underlying message of all this research is that emotional
development is too important to be left to chance. Adults,
including early childhood professionals, can make the dif-
ference, supporting positive development, being alert to
possible problems, and intervening early and effectively.

(italics mine; Hyson 2004, 9–10)

Ever since beginning my career as a preschool and kindergarten
teacher, I have considered the importance of my role in supporting
positive emotional development for young children. I wonder how
teachers can be effective if they are not in touch with their own
emotional development, for our interventions in emotional situa-
tions are crucial in supporting children toward acquiring a positive
self-identity. Recently, one of my undergraduate students wrote
about how she is drawn to children with levels of self-confidence
similar to hers as a child:
“ When I was in elementary school . . . I always felt that I
was not good enough and did not have the slightest bit of
self-confidence. Having grown up feeling that way, I vowed