Aggressive student behaviors such as destruction of property, shouting, and running away are almost always caused by elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline – the “fight or flight” chemicals.
These chemicals make it impossible for students to think rationally. Worse yet, this impulsive, aggressive brain state can last 30 minutes to 3 hours per triggering event.
So what causes this chemical imbalance, and how can we help our students overcome it?
Prevent Aggressive Behavior
Aggressive behavior and elevated “fight or flight” hormones can be caused when the student feels attacked, especially if the attack is perceived as an assault on the student’s core personality. Working to understand how our students think and validate them can go a long way toward preventing aggressive behavior.
So how do you do that? There are many ways, but some of the best are: talk to them, listen to them, respect different approaches, notice what they like, point out things they are good at, respect their opinions (even when you disagree,) find things you have in common, be honest, and don’t make assumptions.
3 Ways to Clear Out Fight or Flight Hormones
1 – Exercise. Walking, running, and playing games such as basketball can help prevent and reduce aggressive reactions. Allow students to “walk it off” when they get upset.
2 – Laughter. Reading a funny book, showing a silly video, or telling a joke can make students laugh. Laughter drains away cortisol and replaces it with oxytocin. Oxytocin calms the brain and makes it ready to learn.
3 – Togetherness. It can help to allow your aggressive student to talk things out with a friend or trusted adult. Class meetings, traditions, games, and shared rituals can prevent aggressive behavior by creating a sense of tribe or belonging within the classroom.
Do you have a way of de-escalating aggressive students? If so, I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, or share your ideas in the Awesome Teacher Nation private Facebook group.
Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!
Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com
PS – Would you like more practical classroom management strategies that work? Check out the Monday Morning Sanity Boost archives. If you like what you see, you may want to gain access to even more strategies that I only share with Awesome Teacher Nation members. You can join here. It’s free!