Leandra Dias –
If you are currently teaching children or have had some previous experience with them, even if it was for a short period of time, you will probably agree that aggressive behavior in class or outside of it is a serious issue.
I myself have witnessed countless moments in which I felt hopeless about aggressive attitudes in class. By ‘aggressive attitudes’, I do not mean students wrestling on the floor. I am inviting you to think about students who do not share the same opinion, who are not happy about sharing toys or who have problems respecting rules. This scenario pushed me into trying to find a way to understand and deal with conflicts which, unfortunately, happen to be part of some teachers’ daily routines.
The main causes of aggressive behavior
If we all agree that as human beings we all have, at least once in life acted aggressively, we will be wise enough to say that if children do not develop a certain level of aggression they will easily become targets of another child. It seems to me that aggressive attitudes play an important role in the development of social skills during childhood years. On the other hand, if a child gets angry too frequently or on a regular basis, one should worry about it. Anger and aggression can become a serious problem and if not controlled will certainly affect adulthood relationships.
Aggressive behavior is often caused by:
a- Frustration: A child is asked to stop doing an activity which he/ she was enjoying. She/ he cannot have something she/ he wanted.
b- Attention seeking : A child may believe he/ she is being ignored . He/ She might feel less important than the others in class. This feeling can result in jealousy.
c- Territory control: Many children like being in control and might feel threatened by another child`s presence. The aggression would be, in this case, an alternative to drive the intruder away successfully.
Some tips to overcome aggressive behavior in class.
I have to admit that on many occasions, students` aggressive behavior has broken my pace or thrown me off-balance in class. Instead of working on trying to cool students down, I used to punish them by raising my voice or providing them with time-outs.
If you have, at some moment, in your practice, done something similar, you will agree that those alternatives can work well for some time, but will also make students expect them as part of their class routine. If your students absorb this idea, your lessons will be overtaken by failure and frustration.
Here are some points which help me to reflect on the topic.
1- Aggressive behavior has a cause. Just like adults, children have conflicts and most of them do not know how to deal with them. Get to know your students better!
2- Watch for triggers that regularly cause aggressive reactions on your students. Better to avoid than to have to deal with unexpected reactions.
3- Discuss appropriate behavior. Use a moment to have your students reflect on acceptable and unacceptable attitudes. In order to reinforce it display pictures around the class to remind them of what you have agreed on.
4- Prepare students to switch from a stage to another in your lesson. Sometime, regardless of your attempts to avoid frustration some students will still get angry if you ask them to stop playing. Even though, after some time, the warnings and timing will help them to accept they have something else that needs to be done.
5- Help students develop social skills. Interfere positively so as to have students understand the benefits of team work and experience sharing.
6- Give affection and show attention. An aggressive attitude can be a clamour for love and attention.
7- Rethink your reaction. Instead of punishing and reinforcing aggression, be calm, look at the student and help them cool down. You are the adult and that is the reason why you have been given the responsibility of coaching these children.
8- Get to know the student`s life outside the school. A child dealing with post- traumatic stress may exhibit levels of intense behavior.
Helping students to deal with conflicts and overcoming aggressive behavior is a challenge for most of the teachers I have met . And I believe that by changing the way you look at the student you can change your attitude and consequently their behavior. Children need somebody to believe them and prove that despite their unacceptable attitudes in class they are awesome, smart kids.
Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.
GORDON, Ann Miles & Browne Kathryn Williams. Beginnings and Beyond: Foundations in Early Childhood Education, Seventh Edition. Thomson- Delmar Learning
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