Aggression is a normal part of childhood, but it can also be carried to problematic extremes.
This lesson offers some activities you can use to help children work through feelings that might lead to aggression.
Aggression in Childhood
Whether you are a teacher, a parent or someone else who works with children, you have probably seen children act aggressively on multiple occasions. After all, everyone experiences anger from time to time, and many children are still in the early stages of learning socially acceptable ways to handle their anger. This means that sometimes they will get aggressive; children might throw things, hit each other, bite and yell curse words.Even though aggression can be normal, you probably want to help children understand that it is not ultimately productive or acceptable.
The activities in this lesson are oriented toward helping children who struggle with aggression to express their thoughts and feelings in more beneficial ways.
Often, when children are aggressive, it is because they are dealing with feelings they might not know how to express or manage. Art can be a great way to help children express themselves; try using these activities with children who are sometimes aggressive.
Paint Your Anger
Give each student a large piece of paper and three to five different colors of tempera paints. Supply brushes, smocks and water.
Make sure each child has plenty of space. Then, ask your students to think about the last time they felt really angry. Ask them to paint whatever comes to mind when they think about how they felt.
Some children will paint concrete scenes, while others will create more abstract art. Use their paintings as a springboard for talking about what it feels like to be angry and some ways we can express our anger without hurting other people.
In childhood, aggression can also occur as a result of sensory integration challenges; children sometimes act physically aggressive when they are not receiving enough sensory input or do not know what to do with their hands. Try giving each student a ball of putty that will not dry. Then, have the students use permanent markers to decorate a special case they can keep their putty in.
Encourage them to take out the putty the next time they feel like being aggressive, and take out their feelings by giving the putty a really hard squeeze.
Though it can be hard for children to use language to talk about aggression, it can also be invaluable. These activities will help students give words to their aggressive impulses.
What Comes First?
Sometimes, when children struggle with aggression, it can help them to understand their ‘triggers’. Ask students to think about the last time they acted aggressive. Then, ask them to write down what happened immediately before the aggression.
Have them share their examples. Explain that sometimes, what happens before the aggression is called a ‘trigger’. Ask students to try to identify their usual triggers, such as being tired, feeling left out, or not understanding instructions. They should write a sentence that begins, ‘My trigger is..
.’. Explain that by identifying their triggers, they can start to find other ways to deal with the difficult feelings that emerge.
Aggression Role Plays
Though it is wonderful to be proactive when it comes to aggression among children, it is also sometimes necessary to react to situations that have already occurred. If there has been an incident of aggression in your classroom, bring the whole group together and talk it through.
Then, ask children who were not involved to come and act out the situation, though without hurting each other. Have classmates watch and volunteer solutions to how a situation like this one might be handled in the future. Make sure you are not shaming the students who were involved, but explain that this is a good way to brainstorm how to handle challenging situations together.