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Changing Angry Behaviour

When angry outbursts occur in your classroom, there are a variety of strategies that should be included in your program, such as:

  1. Break the pattern.When possible, record incidents of the angry behavior to look for a pattern, a particular situation, and who the child targets. Break the generalized pattern by creating a structured activity plan (in your head at least) for the child who acts out using inappropriate anger strategies such as screaming, becoming aggressive, etc. Give the child a variety of helpful chores to do (e.g., help bring chairs, help set out activities, help set out snack, set the table, put out cots, wash tables, etc.) Praise the child for all successful activities.
  2. Help the child learn appropriate outlets for anger. Help the child learn to recognize signs of anger or agitation, which lead the child to inappropriate actions. Then, help the child find appropriate outlets for these emotions:
    • Use books and personal stories to teach practical anger management techniques
    • Use games: circle games that teach impulse control, body management skills, for example, Red Light/Green Light, Freeze Dance, Head and Shoulders, Clapping Pattern Games and games and activities that teach appropriate anger responses, for example, yoga, anger bingo, relaxation techniques
    • Role play using puppets or the children themselves
  3. Have Clear Expectations. Use personal stories and visuals to help the child understand the appropriate expected behaviour and the consequences of their inappropriate behaviour. For example, a visual depicting “hands to yourself, no hitting.” Whatever the consequences are for the child, be consistent.
  4. Use a reinforcement schedule. As well as clear consequences for inappropriate behaviour, use a reinforcement chart to reward the child for appropriate behaviour with others. Initially, begin with a short time expectation to promote success. Make sure the reinforcer is highly rewarding for the child. A token economy could also be used where the child receives a larger reward after accumulating a certain number of tokens.
  5. Engage children in cooperative, nurturing games and activities. Make sure the child who has difficulties handling anger is involved in these activities. (Initially, the activities could be introduced at circle time or in large group activities with all the children and then, more of these activities could be used in a small group. The child who struggles with anger is always part of the small group.) An adult must always facilitate these activities. Build a puzzle or structure together. Make a mural or play Cooperative Simon Says. (See Link to “Cooperative Games” for additional strategies.)
  6. Include activities and stories to build empathy in your curriculum. Once again, these activities can be done in the large group and also, emphasized individually with the child who has difficulties managing anger. An adult must facilitate these activities:
    • Games to help a child build empathy. For example: emotions lotto, emotions dice, social lotto, Get to Know Your Friend Bingo, Same/Different Activity
    • Books
    • Worksheets. For example, Same/Different Worksheet, How Would You Feel Worksheet.
    • Scripted Role Plays (can use puppets or the children themselves). Make sure the child who has difficulty controlling anger plays the role of a victim to help develop empathic understanding
  7. Engage children in self-esteem building activities. Self-esteem activities are important because children who have issues handling anger appropriately may have low self-esteem. Do activities to help build self-esteem in the child. For example, Friendship Tree, Friendship Quilt, Superhero book and All About Me Activity Book. At group time or using worksheets, do activities to emphasize the strengths of all the children so the child also learns to value peers.

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