Acting Out / Aggression / Anger

Coping with Aggression and Anger

One of the beginning steps in helping students deal with anger or aggression is to help them recognize it. Talking with them about what makes them angry (best to do when they are calm) can help the student recognize what “triggers” his behavior. Simple questions like:

  • What happened first, and then what did you do?
  • How did you feel?
  • When did you know you were really angry?
  • So what triggers anger in you?

There are many ways to handle anger once the student learns to recognize it. Of course, a teaching assistant/paraeducator will want to coordinate this with the teacher. It is always more effective when parents, teachers, and teacher assistants and paraeducators work together on the same plan. The American Psychological Association suggests the following:

Relaxation

As simple as it sounds, basic relaxation exercises can be powerful tools in overcoming one's anger. We’ve heard the phrases at football games, “Walk it off,” “Calm down,” “Take a time out.” Help students with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing; slowly repeating a relaxing phrase; singing a favorite stanza of a song (quietly or in his mind), or repeating to himself phrases and words like: “relax" or "take it easy"; using peaceful imagery to imagine a relaxing situation; and relaxing exercise, like yoga or tai-chi.

Better Communication

Angry students tend to jump to conclusions and may overreact. Help them to slow down and think about what they are saying. They may want to say something like this: “You make me so angry when you call me names. I feel like you are trying to put me down.” When students learn to recognize what makes them angry and to express that anger in a proper way, they are better able to cope.

Paraeducators, Teacher Assistants, Paraprofessionals

There are two parts to an aggressive or angry situation. One is the way the student expresses anger and the other is how you react. Here are a couple of ideas to resolve these problems.

Using Humor

Refuse to take yourself too seriously and don’t take the anger the student directs at you as a personal attack. It is not personal (although it may appear that way). By refusing to take yourself too seriously, you can defuse your own anger. Always avoid the use of sarcasm or harsh humor toward the student or his situation. You should also avoid simply "laughing off" students' problems — which ignores the issue at hand.

Don’t “brush off” the student’s anger. Listen carefully to what he has to say. If possible, find ways to help him learn to avoid taking himself too seriously. He can be taught to try to use humorous imagery to lighten his mood. When possible, help him to use humor to approach the problem more constructively.