I tell this story to the children in our classroom every year. I am sure many of you can relate:
For many years, I lived with my brother Keith. We were amazing roommates and we got along very well. However, one night I arrived home from classes, exhausted from an early shift at the coffee shop where I worked at the time, to find the garbage can overflowing with trash. I asked Keith to take the bag out. He proceeded to point to the tippy-top item crowning the heap. “That’s not mine,” he said.
I am not proud to say that I lost it. I yelled and screamed, only causing him to become defensive and yell back. About five minutes into this loud argument, we had the good sense to go to our respective rooms. After some time, we both rushed out saying, “I’m so sorry!” almost in unison.
That night, neither one of us felt at our best. It required ten minutes of rest and quiet for us to remember how much we did like each other, more than enough to carry a bag of trash to the curb.
After that, whenever I began feeling frustrated, I remembered to go to my room for a few minutes. There, I could calm down and handle the situation without those big feelings making me react in a way I would later regret.
We all feel negative emotions at times. Perhaps we feel overwhelmed, sad, grumpy, frustrated, angry, or unwell. As adults, we have coping strategies for (usually) handling these feelings with grace. However, children often need explicit direction and instruction when faced with difficult emotions.
That is why I love our classroom Peace Chair! The Peace Chair is a comfortable seat, often outfitted with comforting objects, where people can go if they feel negative emotions.
Peace Chair Accessories
Peace Chairs often have accessories that help people calm down. These can be personalized to the individuals using a particular Peace Chair. Here is a non-exhaustive list of suggestions for objects you can place by the Peace Chair:
Putty (Teach children how to keep putty contained. It can be messy!)
How to Introduce the Peace Chair
Sometimes, we feel in the blue, yellow, or red zones. (See The Zones of Regulation.)
It is normal to feel angry, sad, overwhelmed, or frustrated sometimes, but it can be difficult to feel this way. If you feel in the blue, yellow, or red zone, you can always go to the Peace Chair. This helps us feel better.
Sit down with your feet on the floor. Take big breaths. Demonstrate.
Also demonstrate how to use the accessories, one by one.
After some time sitting and breathing in the Peace Chair, I feel better and can move on with my day!
Invite your child to try.
Note: When children are upset and sitting in the Peace Chair, I will quietly go by and ask them if they need help. If they say no, I will tell them to let me know if they change their minds and then leave them alone.
The Peace Chair Is NOT...
1) A punishment
We never send a child to the Peace Chair as a punishment. We might gently suggest it to a child who seems upset, but we never mandate it. Children might not utilize the Peace Chair if they associate it with getting in trouble.
2) A “Time Out”
Technically, sitting in the Peace Chair does give us time and space. However, it should empower children to make good decisions for themselves rather than a potential power struggle.
3) Just for children
Adults can and should use the Peace Chair! Doing so offers a great example for children. Do you feel like you want to yell? Give yourself the gift of sitting down and not having to confront the issue in the heat of the moment.
4) The end of the conversation
If there is a conversation to be had or feelings that still need mending, wait until the child has emerged from the Peace Chair.
Peace Chairs in the Home
Peace Chairs are not just for classrooms! You can easily establish one in your home.
Find/purchase a comfy seat.
Optional- Collect/purchase a few accessories.
Discuss and model how to use the Peace Chair with your child.