Breaking Down the Walls of Anger
Childhaven teacher Joyce Gordon delivered the following speech at our auction in October.
Amanda was a four-year-old little girl with a lot of anger. And I mean a RAGE of anger. When I met Amanda for the first time, I thought—”what a cute little girl!” But she rolled her eyes and established HER rules right away. “Don’t look at me!” “Don’t talk to me!” and “You can’t tell me what to do!
When she didn’t want to participate, Amanda would run around the classroom knocking things down. She would climb onto windowsills and counter tops, and then jump right off. Anything to try to hurt herself.
I felt like there was a wall of anger around Amanda, and she wasn’t letting anybody in. But we HAD to help her. Amanda’s anger didn’t come out of nowhere. It came from a traumatic environment she didn’t choose to be in.
Coming to Childhaven, Amanda began a consistent routine and structure. She had the same teacher, the same meal times, the same play times every day. We formed a loving relationship with Amanda that she could depend on.
But some days the tantrums just wouldn’t stop. She’d be throwing toys and chairs and shouting things like “I hate you” over and over and over. This would happen 2-3 times a day for days on end, and months at a time. It was just so hard. But Childhaven never gives up on a kid. No one is ever put out of Childhaven.
One day, Amanda was having a violent tantrum, and we had to restrain her so she wouldn’t hurt herself. I held her little body tight, and I could feel her just melt into me. I could feel her anger finally breaking down.
Later that month, I sat Amanda down to ask her why she had hit another child. She took a deep breath and said “you mean I’m not in trouble?” She expected to be restrained, but we just wanted to talk to her and have her check on her peer.
I wondered: Had anybody given her love while she was angry? She tried so hard to push us away. But in the end, Childhaven broke through.
The truth is that Amanda was a very smart, thoughtful child. She was able to learn just about anything! She could write her name or ABCs. She could recognize letters and numbers. She was so smart. She just needed to tear that wall of anger down.
And she was sensitive, too! At Childhaven, we build the social-emotional skills of every child so they can learn to regulate their feelings and get along with their peers. Amanda learned that it was a good thing to talk about her emotions with others. It was so inspiring to watch her have a little dispute with a peer and problem-solve the issue herself.
Amanda was finally thriving. And then the big day came. Amanda was graduating from Childhaven! When she first came here, she had been full of rage. But now she would tell us daily how much she would miss us. She would come up and sit in my lap and talk about what she wanted to be when she grew up. She wanted to help others. She wanted to be a policewoman!
Her transformation was extraordinary . Despite all her anger, she had real hopes and dreams.
I was so proud that Amanda could join her classmates and graduate with her head held high. Amanda was ready to go on to kindergarten. She was ready to learn, ready to make new friends. She was ready to move forward with her dreams
And I know that one day Amanda will be a leader in our community.
This is the impact that Childhaven has. We change the lives of children every day.
I know Childhaven works. I know what we do is extraordinary. If we can put a smile on the face of a child like Amanda, we can do anything.
Three Generations of Family Support
In 2007, Stacie Peterson was looking for a way to give back to her community. After researching various opportunities, she found what felt like a perfect fit—a volunteer teaching slot in one of Childhaven’s baby rooms. Little did she suspect just how much of a fit this would turn out to be. Stacie has not only volunteered with us for over ten years but has also recruited practically her entire family to support our mission. We spoke to Stacie and her daughter Spencer to learn more their involvement!
What drew you to Childhaven over other nonprofits?
Stacie: The work Childhaven does with children and families is paramount in our community. I’ve always loved being around kids, and I felt drawn to Childhaven’s work supporting drug affected infants in particular. The classroom hours also gave me some scheduling flexibility. A lot of people may want to volunteer but can’t find an opportunity that works schedule-wise.
How did other members of the family get involved?
Spencer: My mom volunteered at Childhaven when I was a teenager, and I saw how much she got out of it. I recently returned to Seattle after living in New York, and decided to pick up a volunteer shift. My mom and I actually volunteered in the same infant room for a while!
Stacie: My parents have also been involved as donors. They knew how much I was dedicated to the mission here, and after doing their own due diligence they decided to contribute.
What would you say to someone considering a volunteer opportunity at Childhaven?
Spencer: In the infant room, you can feel the difference you’re making day by day as the kids warm up to you and form bonds—opening their arms for a hug or asking to snuggle with you after a nap. They’re small steps, but they can have a large community impact!
Stacie: We had a boy in the infant room once who came in at eight months and couldn’t sit up by himself—he was delayed due to extreme neglect. We were all so worried that he was too weak, and would have lifetime problems.
But he really came around. The therapeutic environment worked wonders. I got to see his transformation into a happy little toddler—within the span of just a few months!
I always get more out of Childhaven than I give. I call it my weekly baby therapy. Being able to leave my stressors and problems for a while and have time with the kids is really a joy and a treat. It doesn’t feel like work…it’s therapeutic for everyone.
Give a little time to make a big impact! Learn about volunteering at Childhaven.
To respect the privacy of the children and families we serve, we may change their names in articles and/or use stock photos.