• Amba Brown

How to support a child with persistent anger issues

Updated: May 9, 2019

A child with anger issues needs your support, says this primary teacher. He offers his tips on how to find the cause of the issues and how to offer help.

I am a primary school teacher and I have a pupil whose behaviour can become aggressive and out of control, and the cause is tricky to determine. Is there much advice out there for teachers in this situation?

There is a bit. According to the NHS, there can be many triggers that make a child feel angrier than is usual for childhood behaviour. It lists examples such as witnessing disputes between family members, friendship problems or feeling anxious. As a teacher, identifying and understanding the cause is key.

But how can I find out which of these issues might be causing the problem?

The most effective – and simplest – way is to ask the child: “What makes you feel angry?”

I have tried that, the child says they don’t know...

OK – spend some time observing the child to identify what triggers the aggressive behaviour – this can be particularly useful during unstructured play. Make a note of your observations and speak to previous teachers who might have more knowledge of the child’s situation. Use this information to pre-empt scenarios that they might find difficult and figure out when you need to step in to diffuse a situation.

What if I am too late and the child has lashed out at someone?

Stay calm. Addressing them directly and firmly can cut an outburst short, but raising your voice or shouting risks escalating the situation. Try to get the child to a safe space where they can calm down. In the most challenging circumstances, where the child’s behaviour continues to be a risk to the safety of other pupils or themselves, you may need to call a senior leader for assistance or to help you use "positive handling" strategies – but only if you have the appropriate training – to physically move the child to a safe space.

What now?

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