Reframing THAT Child

Reframing THAT Child

Here’s a statement that I’ve heard many times before: “I wonder how I’ll feel now that my child is in the same class as THAT child.” Another school year has begun, and as parents and students start to get to know classmates and find out more about them, there always seems to be this fear around “THAT child“. THAT child” can be so many different kids:

Sometimes it’s a child with an identification: from ADHD to AutismSometimes it’s a child that screams, kicks, bites, or throws furniture. “That child” may hit, punch, or grab. “That child” likely does not use his or her “words” to solve problems.

It often seems as though “that child” needs and gets the most attention from the teacher. “That child” may:

  • need a different schedule
  • have a different set of rules
  • always have to be first in line
  • need to sit on a chair instead of at the carpet
  • need to avoid full-class activities altogether
  • be different…and that’s okay. 

Reframing That Child by Aviva Dunsiger - self-reg.caFor you see, here is something that I have not said enough when people have spoken to me about “that child”: maybe it’s time that we move from focusing on the “negative” to examining the “positive.”

Here are some ways that we can reframe this situation. This child is helping others to:

  • learn empathy
  • learn to be patient
  • learn that the teacher is not the only person that can help out in a classroom
  • learn respect
  • learn that everyone deserves a friend
  • learn the value of a quiet voice and fewer words
  • learn that every child deserves to be loved, and the different ways that we can show this love
  • learn that there is no such thing as a “bad child,” and often there is another reason for the many different behaviours that we see

This student is someone’s brother, sister, peer, friend, and/or child. This student is doing the very best job that he/she can. This student — like all students — deserves a positive space in the classroom. At one time or another, any child can be “that child”, and every child needs to know that he or she has the additional love and support to make it through a challenging time. 

Imagine if we never thought about children as this child or that child, but just child: each of whom needs us in different ways at different times, and teaches us different things along the way.

From now on, I will try to speak up more when I hear concerns about “THAT child”, as I think it’s time that we start removing the labels and focusing on what we can learn from everybody. Maybe it’s that child who will teach us the most about Self-Reg, and imagine how valuable that could be. How do we help change the dialogue around “THAT child”, and see the value in ALL children? As a new school year begins, I want to remain focused on how much we can learn from each child.

Aviva Dunsiger has been the Portal Plus Moderator for over a year now and completed the Foundations 1 Certification Program. She has taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 6 and enjoys blogging about her teaching and learning experiences. She blogs professionally on her blog, Living Avivaloca. Aviva is excited to contribute a monthly post on The MEHRIT Centre Blog.

By | 2018-01-24T16:58:41+00:00 September 18th, 2017|


  1. Tracy Arnold September 21, 2017 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    I totally agree and I also think we need to remind parents that that child might be there own. I often hear the request from teachers and parents to separate that child from that other child. We should look at this as an opportunity for those children to learn tolerance, problem- solving, and relevant social skills from each other using self regulation tools. Imagine the learning lessons involved when we allow those children to work out their difference as opposed to just separating them.

    • Aviva Dunsiger September 21, 2017 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Tracy! What a wonderful point. I wonder how we support both students and parents in learning these skills. Could it start with our own modelling?


    • Sheila October 26, 2018 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Totally agree. Heartbreaking to see this whole issue happening in a program. The article says it so beautifully with emotional impact. These conversations are often hard to initiate and maintain through to some sense of understanding/reframing of thought/interest or ability to consider alternatives with the adults involved as they are often reacting to the situations through their own triggers/responses/shark music.

      • Aviva Dunsiger October 27, 2018 at 6:56 pm - Reply

        Thanks for your comment, Sheila! I think that when we stop and really look at each child in front of us, we realize how much THAT child deserves us standing up for him/her just as any other child does. We can learn a lot from all of THOSE children, and at one time or anything, any child can be THAT child.


  2. Lisa Metivier June 12, 2018 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    This is everything i’ve always wanted to say! I’ve actually cried over talk about “that child”. That child who is “diagnosed” (at a staff room table) with a bias lens. Thank you for having the heart to write this! I hugged that child a few extra times today.

    • Aviva Dunsiger June 13, 2018 at 5:00 am - Reply

      Awww … thanks Lisa! Your comment is making me cry! That child, and all children, are lucky to have a teacher who truly loves them so much! Those extra hugs probably helped that child out in countless ways today.


  3. […] For educators. For parents. And for administrators. But at the beginning of last year, I started to think about just how much we can learn from THAT child, and how at times, all kids can be THAT […]

  4. Jean October 31, 2018 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    “That” child makes me wonder why a child with a medical condition or birth defect breeds empathy and compassion from others. A child who struggles with behavioral issues as they try to communicate what is happening to them often breeds blame, condemnation and isolation

    • Aviva Dunsiger November 3, 2018 at 3:29 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Jean! I wonder: could it be how we, as adults, respond to these different needs that impact on how kids do so? Thoughts? I wonder if “we” show more empathy to one group of children than another. Do we even realize it? Your post has me wondering.


  5. Sherry Kirkness February 6, 2020 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    All children are different in many ways, its just the matter of how we approach the childs needs and behaviours with the help of Self Reg.

    • Aviva Dunsiger February 6, 2020 at 9:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Sherry! I’d love to hear more about how Self-Reg has changed how you respond to kids.


  6. viola February 6, 2020 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    I often see child neglected with their issue like stuttering…they try to fit in the crowd but they are afraid to talk.. children mock them….I believe every child should have a freedom of who they are…I hope to see what I can come across using sel-freg helping these children

    • Aviva Dunsiger February 6, 2020 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Viola! I wonder if creating an environment of empathy and understanding is part of this. As educators, how do we respond when these things happen? What environmental choices can we make to reduce these problems in the first place? I know that creating an environment of acceptance is one that my teaching partner, Paula, and I strive to do.


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