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Aggressive behaviour

Adapted from Acting Out: Understanding and Reducing Aggressive Behaviour in Children and Youth (© 2007)

Aggression among children is an important school issue. Children who behave aggressively may harm not only themselves but others. Moreover, children with serious aggression problems are more likely than children without such problems to become teenagers who have problems with aggression, with other mental health issues, or with substance use. As adults, they are more likely to engage in acts of violence. Fortunately, there is mounting evidence that early intervention and treatment for children who show signs of aggression can significantly reduce these harmful outcomes.

Thousands of Canadians, including teachers and school administrators, work or volunteer in a variety of settings with children who have problems with anger and aggression—all must be prepared to handle difficult behaviour at a moment's notice while ensuring the safety of everyone concerned. Your efforts are critical in addressing the emotional and behavioural problems that can impede children's educational and social goals.

Our understanding of the many contributing causes of aggression in children has grown immensely over the past decade, and there are many evidence-based approaches available today to help those involved with children who are showing problems.

The links in this section (most from the CAMH book Acting Out: Understanding and Reducing Aggressive Behaviour in Children and Youth) offer practical advice for teachers when managing aggressive behaviour in children.

Curriculum resources that explore aggressive behaviour are available for the elementary grades.

Addressing "normal" aggression 

Adapted from Acting Out: Understanding and Reducing Aggressive Behaviour in Children and Youth (© 2007)

Aggression consists of an action or a threat of an action intended to harm another person, either physically or psychologically. Children who act aggressively — even within bounds considered normal and common for their age group — need to be made aware that their behaviours are not socially acceptable.

Preventing aggression

The best way to reduce incidents of aggression among children is to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Managing aggression

In this section, you will find strategies designed to help you manage aggression: to diffuse a situation or calm a student; find out what caused the aggressive behaviour and address the cause; and build better relationships with students.

In Addressing aggressive behaviour

Discouraging bullying

Addressing "normal" aggression

 - Preventing aggression

 - Managing aggression

Determining if a young person has a serious problem with aggression

Working with young people who have mental health problems that may include aggressive behaviour 

 - Disruptive behaviour disorders

    - Oppositional defiant disorder

    - Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

    - Conduct disorder

    - Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder