Teaching Assistants often have to work with individuals who, because of the nature of a condition or syndrome, can sometimes be aggressive children. The skill is to know the individual who displays the behaviour and understand the causes and what triggers the behaviour and to have a background knowledge of the syndromes or conditions and the strategies that are best to use to manage that behaviour. Examples of strategies to use with a range of syndromes and conditions are given in the Stonebridge Classroom Behaviour Course.
>Some strategies to use with aggression include:
- Avoid too much movement and convey non-aggressive intentions in your body language – avoid waving arms as this can exacerbate confrontation.
- Use pauses between responses. Using a form of tactical pausing can reduce the chances of confrontation and also shows respect as this demonstrates that you are reflecting on what they are saying.
- Remember that silence can be very effective.
- Show genuine concern and help the pupil to take control of the situation.
- Avoid an upward spiral of confrontational behaviour. Do not try to mirror their mood. For example, if they shout avoid the temptation to shout louder. It is best to match the mood level while showing some heightened response.
- Positioning is key – standing at right angles to the pupil or alongside them may be less threatening. Avoid squaring up. Remember that an angry pupil has a large personal space bubble around them. Normally the space bubble or zone of comfort is about 50cm around us. Standing inside that zone or too close with an angry pupil can exacerbate the situation. However, standing too far away and by appearing to retreat by moving away from the pupil might be seen as a sign of weakness. By standing in this position, you avoid excessive eye contact as that is often threatening.
- Do not get pulled into a power struggle – keep responses low key and do not allow the situation to escalate.
- Always model the behaviour you expect to see.
- Avoid excessive eye contact as this can be seen as threatening and challenging. Allow the pupil to look away. Standing at right angles to or alongside the pupil will help to avoid issues relating to eye contact
- Try to be solution-focused and allow the pupil to save face. Give them an escape route.
- Pupils sometimes need reassurance. Use inclusive language: ‘we all get angry so it’s OK to feel this way – we will certainly be able to find a solution’. This can prove useful as some learners will become scared by their extreme behaviour.