Are there times when it’s okay to “give in?”

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about the idea of “giving in.” For almost all of my teaching career, I thought that we shouldn’t give in.

  • “Ignore the tears.”
  • “Walk away from the tantrum.”
  • Don’t let the yelling work.”

It was always my thinking that if we “gave in,” we were giving children permission to act in these ways. We were saying to them that these options were the preferred ways to respond. While I can see how this thinking could make sense, I’m now finishing the Foundations Courses through The MEHRIT Centre, and I’m starting to view things differently.

  • What if the tears, tantrums, and yelling, are the results of extreme stress?
  • What if these reactions are a “fight” response?

Should we be asking ourselves “why this child” and “why now,” when the tears, tantrums, and yelling happen, so that we can figure out the underlying causes? Is this when our children need us the most? Is this when they need the hug or the listening ear instead of the walking away? 

As the school year comes to an end, and the stress increases — for adults and for children — I think about the behaviour that we might see in our classrooms and around the school. I think about how I’ve responded for years — from walking away to being firm — and I now I wonder if the children’s actions are not “cries for attention,” but “cries of stress” and “cries for help.” How could we support our students when they might need us the most? Are there times when it’s okay to “give in?” I would love to hear your thoughts about this, as I continue to reconsider “giving in.”


8 thoughts on “Are there times when it’s okay to “give in?”

  1. I struggle with this all the time. In my class and with my own kids at home. Trying to maintain that balance of giving them opportunity to work through the stress and figuring out how to help them without getting stressed myself. It is not easy. I feel I get to the walk away, be firm or ignore part after I’ve tried to be patient and give the love and attention they might need and it didn’t work. I continue to try to be patient and figure out the stressor that is causing the behaviour, but this is a mystery sometimes too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It resonated close to my heart.

    • Thanks Bonnie for your comment and such an heart felt response! I totally understand what you mean. I sometimes feel this way too. I’m curious to hear how people work out the stressor and how do they respond when their attempts at “understanding” are not working. Could this just be the need for more time? Is it not determining the actual stressor that’s causing the attempt at a solution not to work? Is it something more? Thanks for giving me even more to think about!


  2. There’s a quote that’s been going around social media, something like – children who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.

    And another one about how kids who come from loving homes make our jobs easier and those who don’t make our jobs more important.

    I believe that behaviour happens for a reason – especially at high stress times like at the end of a school year (for many children, end of school means end of safe structure…).

    Instead of thinking of it as ‘giving in’, why not think of it as ‘listening to’? Though…it sounds like you are already going that way… 🙂

    • Thanks Tracy for sharing these quotes and this perspective! The need to “listen to” makes a lot of sense to me. I think that as I’ve learnt more about self-regulation and stress, I’m starting to see things differently. I’ll admit that I don’t always remember to respond this way, or sometimes think of this in retrospect, but I’m definitely trying to consider the “why” more. I was curious what others thought and what they do. Thanks for adding to the conversation!


  3. As I read through the comments, I’m starting to think that maybe it is not really about what we do in the moment but how we follow up on it. When the tears and behaviour are present, no matter what we do the emotions (in the child…and sometimes in us) are too high to be able to really process interventions properly. So whether we stop for the cuddle or whether we walk away … perhaps we need to focus more on interventions that take place when emotions are more grounded afterwards. Things like having a caring conversation about what happened or a quick hug and a smile to show that the relationship is ok, are more important than how we react in the heat of the moment.

    • I love this point, Tracy! Maybe this is also when we can apologize — if need be — because nobody’s perfect, and how we reacted in the moment, may have only served to escalate the problem instead of de-escalate it. I’m not saying that this will always be the case, but certainly strengthening and/or repairing relationships are so important. Thanks for the reminder!


  4. I enjoyed your post! There are many students who come to school and have a history of trauma. Many events and situations can cause trauma and teachers are not always aware that students have a history of trauma. Students sometimes act out because of their traumatic experiences and tradition parenting and teaching methods do not usually work with traumatized children. Here is a resource:

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