Although teaching elementary students is a generally fun and rewarding experience, some children can get angry or angsty, disrupting your lessons. If this happens, there are several approaches you can try to diffuse the situation.
Here are 13 tips for dealing with angry elementary students:
- Act calmly.
- Speak privately.
- Handle the situation promptly.
- Come to an understanding.
- Don’t take anything to heart.
- Be stern if necessary.
- Seek assistance.
- Try breathing techniques.
- Speak with the parents if the issue is ongoing.
- Engage in calming games and exercises.
- Protect the other students.
- Ignore the behavior if appropriate.
- Correct the student(s) later.
In this article, I’ll be discussing these tips in greater detail. Read on if you want to learn more.
1. Act Calmly
Firstly, you want to remain calm when dealing with an angry student. Otherwise, you could worsen the student’s behavior. Once the student becomes angry, observe them and speak to them in a calm, friendly tone.
The idea is to get the student calm enough so that you can speak with them privately to discuss the issue. You won’t be able to effectively talk with an angry student if they’re shouting or behaving erratically, so keeping calm with them is the best course of action.
You can get more information about how to remain calm and de-escalate the situation by watching this Youtube video by Polly Bath:
Acting cool and collected will also keep the other students calm. Again, if you become upset or angry, the angry student’s behavior will worsen, and the other students might become angry or upset, too. They will also get more distracted from the lesson, which you certainly want to avoid.
2. Speak Privately
Instead of addressing an angry student in front of the entire class, it’s best to address them privately. Bring them outside and speak to them to understand where the issue lies. Being outside the classroom for a few minutes might be enough to calm the student down.
Being private will also give the angry student more confidence to talk about any issues they’re having. Most people wouldn’t want to discuss such things in front of their peers, so keep this in mind when dealing with an angry or upset student.
When speaking with an angry student privately, you don’t want to complain to them. If you do this, they’re more likely to tune out what you’re saying. Instead, focus on one of their excellent qualities and how their behavior is getting in the way of that good quality.
Focusing on a positive aspect of the student’s school life will make them listen, and it may even help to calm them down. It’s an excellent way to promote confidence and self-worth in a child, and it should motivate them to calm down and do better in class.
3. Handle the Situation Promptly
Once you notice a student becoming angry, handle the situation promptly before it worsens. However, it would help if you also observed the student closely to ensure you understand the best way to intervene.
Here are some examples of when you should handle the situation promptly:
- The student is threatening you.
- The student is threatening other students.
- The student is disrupting the class.
In all cases, you must remain calm, as mentioned in the first tip.
If you allow the situation to build, it could become more difficult for you to handle it alone. Plus, the student might think they’re getting away with the behavior if you don’t intervene quickly–this means they’ll have more confidence to continue disrupting the class.
Intervening immediately will show that you have control over the situation and won’t accept disruptions in the classroom. You don’t have to be mean, rude, or frightening, but you need to show the student that you are not going to just sit and watch.
As soon as a student gets aggressive or severely disrupts the class, jump in before it gets out of hand.
4. Come to an Understanding
When dealing with an angry student, you shouldn’t assume they’re purposefully behaving this way. In many cases, there could be an underlying issue, so you must speak to them calmly and try to understand what’s wrong.
Of course, you don’t want to forcefully ask them why they’re being angry, as they may not feel comfortable talking about it. However, it would help if you let them know they can talk to you because you want to help.
Consider the Student’s Mental Health
It’s also important to understand that anger in elementary students can be a result of underlying conditions, like:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Learning difficulties
While some students may be diagnosed, others might not. According to the CDC, the above conditions are the most common ones in children, so you should be mindful of this probability when dealing with a consistently angry student.
You should consult with a school counselor or nurse if you notice worrying behavior (such as frequent angry outbursts) in a student that you might suspect is related to a mental health disorder.
5. Don’t Take Anything to Heart
When students are angry, they might say things they don’t mean, just like adults do. So, you mustn’t let anything get to you. If you do, it can impact how you deal with the situation.
The student might also be able to see that you’re upset, which could go three main ways:
- They’ll feel bad and back down.
- They’ll see that they have power over you and continue with their behavior.
- They won’t care and will continue to be angry.
Even if you get hurt by a comment the student makes, try your best to appear unaffected by the statement so that you can handle the situation appropriately.
When a student is angry and starts attacking, keep in mind that they’ll say hurtful things to whoever is in the room. So, you should remember this and remind yourself not to take anything personally.
6. Be Stern if Necessary
When dealing with an angry child, it’s sometimes necessary to be stern. If your calmness isn’t working and the student remains disruptive, you must show them that you won’t tolerate their behavior.
You don’t need to be aggressive or shout at the student, but you can put your foot down and order them to walk outside the classroom with you.
Some students will take advantage of you if they think you’re being too friendly and easy-going, so being stern is best in these instances. Although being stern is OK, you should never physically touch a student or speak aggressively to them. Be stern but fair with your words to get the angry student to listen to you.
7. Seek Assistance
If the situation seems to be worsening and the student isn’t listening to you, there’s no shame in getting assistance from another staff member. This could include:
- The school principal
- The vice principal
- Another teacher
- A counselor
Before getting help, let the class know that you’ll get someone and you’ll be back soon. If your school has a phone system, you won’t need to leave the classroom to get help. Contact the person you need, and they should come to assist you in no time.
When seeking assistance, briefly explain the situation to the other person and try to work together for a quick solution. If a counselor is available, they might be the best person to get help from because they’ll have plenty of experience dealing with angry children.
8. Try Breathing Techniques
To deal with an angry student, you could try breathing techniques to calm them down. Breathing slower and deeper can calm the student down, so try to get them to do this. It’s best to do this privately so that other students can’t see what’s happening.
However, if multiple angry and upset students are disrupting the class, it might be good to try these breathing exercises as a group. Doing this might make the angry students feel less excluded since you’re not taking them out of the room to do it alone.
Other than slow and deep breathing, there are a few different techniques you can try with your students. Some of them include:
- Playing calming music
- Spending a few minutes outside in the fresh air
A 10-minute meditation is another excellent way to calm elementary students down because it will relax them and make them feel calmer. Once the meditation is over, the anger will have (hopefully) dissipated, and you can get on with the day’s lessons.
9. Speak With the Parents if the Issue Is Ongoing
It might not be necessary to go to the student’s parents if their anger was only a one-off occurrence. However, if something happens frequently, it’s a good idea to bring it up with them.
When speaking to parents, you should be as respectful as possible. Avoid complaining about their child. Instead, show genuine concern and ask if they have any problems to disclose.
Be sure to take note of the points you want to discuss with the parents so that you don’t miss anything when speaking to them. It may be a sensitive topic, so always be as respectful as possible. If they become offended, assure them that you want the best for their child and want to help them succeed in the classroom.
In most cases, they’ll be happy that you’ve come to them and that you want to help their child succeed in school. They can also talk to their child at home, which could help improve their behavior when they return to your classroom.
It may also prompt the parents to take their child to a psychiatrist if there’s a suspected mental health disorder.
10. Engage in Calming Games and Exercises
Sometimes, it’s good to introduce games and exercises into the classroom. One example would be kids’ yoga. Not only will this distract students from their anger, but it’s also a way for them to have a little fun before getting back to work.
You could also get the students to draw or paint, which is fun and educational. Art can make children calmer and positively impact their mindset. Puzzles (like jigsaws) are also an excellent tool to calm your students and get them out of their angry or upset attitudes.
If possible, you can turn the lights off so that only natural light comes into the classroom. Natural sunlight is good for your health and can decrease the chances of depression (particularly during the winter months), so letting some natural light into the room while keeping the artificial lights off is a good idea from time to time.
Although regular lessons are an essential part of the school day, giving your students time to unwind (especially if they seem tired, irritated, or angry) is equally important.
11. Protect the Other Students
While you should focus on the angry student(s), you also want to ensure the other students are safe. You must diffuse the situation promptly if the angry student begins threatening their peers. Try your best to get the student out of the classroom so that they can’t harm another student, verbally or physically.
Never tolerate a student being rude and angry toward others, as this can signify bullying. Of course, you don’t have to be overly angry, especially if you don’t know exactly what’s happening. However, be sure to stop arguments or violence from breaking out before it’s too late.
If two students are angry toward each other and seem to be arguing back and forth, it’s best to remove both of them from the classroom and speak to them privately. By doing this, you can get both sides of the story and figure out how to handle the situation.
You might need to pull the angry student away when they become physical or threaten to get physical with a student. However, physically touching the student to get them away from the situation should be a last resort–only do so if you believe someone is in actual danger and there is no other way to ensure safety.
Speak to the Entire Class
If there’s an incident that the entire class witnesses (for example, if an angry student hits their peer), some children might feel upset or scared. Speak to the class after the incident and let them know that this behavior is wrong, and it’s understandable to be upset.
Make them aware that the only appropriate way to solve problems is with your words, not violence. Tell students they can come to you if they have any concerns or worries.
12. Ignore the Behavior if Appropriate
It’s not always a good idea to ignore the behavior of an angry elementary student, but sometimes, it’s a helpful strategy.
Some children will display angry behavior if they want attention, and if you give them attention, the behavior may get worse. If you suspect this is the case and no one is in danger, you could try to ignore it.
However, intervene immediately if the anger disrupts the class, or the student is making threats. Additionally, if ignoring the problem doesn’t eventually stop the student from acting angrily, you should intervene.
Students who act out for attention will become embarrassed or bored once they realize you’re not reacting. As a result, they’ll stop. It’s all about observing the situation and determining why the student is angry.
13. Correct the Student(s) Later
When you’re trying to calm an angry student, it’s best to be understanding and calm. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t want to be mad because this could upset the student more.
However, children also need to know when their behavior is wrong and shouldn’t get away with inappropriate behavior because it might make them think they can do it again. So, you need to correct the student’s behavior at the appropriate time.
The best time to correct a student is after the incident when they’ve had plenty of time to calm down and reflect on the situation. You don’t need to be mean or condescending when correcting them.
Let them know that their behavior wasn’t acceptable but that you know they’re smart and will learn from their mistakes. Again, be as friendly as possible throughout the whole ordeal, but don’t be afraid to be stern if need be.
Remember that focusing on reward is often better than punishment, so try to focus on the student’s talents and good qualities while also letting them know their behavior needs to change.
Doing this should push them in the right direction–being overly negative could unmotivate them, making the situation worse.
Best Thing To Say to an Angry Elementary Student
When dealing with an angry elementary student, you might struggle to figure out what to say to them. In all cases, you want them to know that you understand their feelings because this could make them feel less alone.
Once the situation has calmed, you can later speak with the student (kindly) to remind them that disrupting the class isn’t fair.
Here are some good examples of things to say to angry elementary students to calm them down:
- “I understand why you’re angry, so let’s work together to find a solution.”
- “It’s normal to be angry now and then–tell me what’s bothering you, and I’ll be happy to help.”
- “You are a very talented and bright kid, so let’s focus on those qualities to get away from this negativity.”
- Edutopia: How to Talk to a “Problem Student” Without Them Tuning You Out
- Child Mind Institute: Is My Child’s Anger Normal?
- CDC: Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: For Educators
- Healthline: Anger Management Exercises to Help You Stay Calm
- Healthline: The Health Benefits of Natural Light (and 7 Ways to Get More of It)
- Future Educators: How to Handle Bad Student Behavior
- Georgetown Behavioral: Benefits of Expressive Art Therapy for Children
- How To Deal With Students Who Won’t Stop Talking (20 Top Tips)
- 7 Ways Elementary Students Can Benefit From PowerPoint
- What Elementary Teachers Should (And Should NOT) Wear
- Are Elementary Teachers Allowed To Wear Open-Toed Shoes?
- Should Elementary Teachers Give Homework? (The Ultimate Guide)
Acknowledge students' feelings and let them know that they are valid and that you understand. Students should know that being angry is okay, but that there is an appropriate way to deal with their feelings. Emphasize that anger can be expressed in a calm and respectful manner.How can I help my 13 year old with anger issues? ›
- Show Empathy. One of the most important things you can do is "validate the valid," Nielsen says. ...
- Be Consistent with Consequences. ...
- Take Timeouts. ...
- Discuss Hot Topics at Calm Times. ...
- Teach How to Process Anger. ...
- Look Beneath the Surface. ...
- Encourage Self-care. ...
- Seek Support.
- Keep calm, listen and acknowledge their feelings.
- Help them understand their moods and what they might be going through.
- Maintain clear rules, boundaries and expectations.
- count to 10.
- walk away from the situation.
- breathe slowly and deeply.
- clench and unclench their fists to ease tension.
- talk to a trusted person.
- go to a private place to calm down.
Acknowledge students' feelings and let them know that they are valid and that you understand. Students should know that being angry is okay, but that there is an appropriate way to deal with their feelings. Emphasize that anger can be expressed in a calm and respectful manner.What causes anger issues in a 13 year old? ›
Puberty is a time of rapid physical growth and extensive brain development. These rapid changes can lead to an increase in teen aggression and angry behavior. Many parents blame teens' aggressive behavior on raging hormones.
- Ground them, but reasonably. Save. ...
- Take away privileges. ...
- Your house, your rules. ...
- Let them face the consequences. ...
- Do not issue commands. ...
- Let them mend things. ...
- Give them more responsibilities. ...
- Befriend them.
For children, anger issues often accompany other mental health conditions, including ADHD, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette's syndrome. Genetics and other biological factors are thought to play a role in anger/aggression. Environment is a contributor as well.Is it normal for a 13 year old boy to be angry? ›
Anger is a normal part of adolescence and can be a healthy emotional response to outside stressors. Anger is a secondary emotion for teens as it often masks other underlying issues including sadness, hurt, fear, and shame. When these underlying emotions become too much, a teen will often respond by lashing out.How do you teach a bad tempered child? ›
- Help kids put it into words. ...
- Listen and respond. ...
- Create clear ground rules and stick to them. ...
- Take a break from the situation. ...
- Find a way to (safely) get the anger out. ...
- Learn to shift. ...
- Make sure kids get enough sleep. ...
- Help them label emotions.
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. Try to be solution-focused and allow the pupil to save face. Give them an escape route.What are 7 good ways to help deal with anger? ›
- Think before you speak. In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say something you'll later regret. ...
- Once you're calm, express your concerns. ...
- Get some exercise. ...
- Take a timeout. ...
- Identify possible solutions. ...
- Stick with 'I' statements. ...
- Don't hold a grudge. ...
- Use humor to release tension.
A lot of anger in children is usually a sign that they are frustrated or in distress. It's important to identify the source. There can be many underlying causes, including autism, ADHD, anxiety, or learning disorders.How do I know if my 13 year old has anger issues? ›
Signs of anger issues in a teenager:
Increased moodiness. Verbal threats. Violent anger outbursts. Irrational behavior or thoughts.
Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a condition in which children or adolescents experience persistent irritability and anger and frequent, intense temper outbursts.Can ADHD cause anger issues? ›
However, many adults with ADHD struggle with anger, especially impulsive, angry outbursts . Triggers can include frustration, impatience, and even low self-esteem. A number of prevention tips may help adults with ADHD manage anger as a symptom.What causes anger issues in students? ›
Sometimes anger issues in kids are caused by another problem that needs treatment. This could be ADHD, anxiety, learning disabilities, sensory processing issues, or autism. There are strategies that parents can use to help kids improve their behavior.What are the three roots of anger? ›
Common roots of anger include fear, pain, and frustration.What are the 4 steps to expressing anger? ›
By expressing our needs, we are far more likely to get them met than by judging, blaming, or punishing others. The four steps to expressing anger are (1) stop and breathe, (2) identify our judgmental thoughts, (3) connect with our needs, and (4) express our feelings and unmet needs.How long should a 13 year old be grounded? ›
Don't Make the Grounding Too Long
Grounding for a week, or two or three weekends is probably sufficient to get the message across without losing it over time. A month may be too long. As the parent of a teen, a shorter time gives you a lesser chance of caving in and reducing the grounding period later.
In most cases, teachers have discipline strategies in place for dealing with misbehavior. Discipline at school usually involves having a child lose recess for the day, doing an extra assignment or classroom chore, or staying after school for detention.What are signs of a disrespectful child? ›
Disrespect from children and teens can be shown in a variety of ways - the most common being backtalk, complaining, arguing, attitude, or just plain ignoring.How do I change my child's negative behavior? ›
- Decide that the behavior is not a problem because it's appropriate to the child's age and stage of development.
- Attempt to stop the behavior, either by ignoring it or by punishing it.
- Introduce a new behavior that you prefer and reinforce it by rewarding your child.
- Stop complaining yourself. Often children who think negatively have parents who think negatively. ...
- Help your child change the filter. ...
- Develop an attitude of gratitude. ...
- 'Reality checking' thoughts. ...
- Empathise and help them understand their emotions. ...
- Help them solve their own problems.
Defiant teenagers often push against or away from people because they are hurting, feeling insecure, or scared of something. In teenagers, defiance often comes from a place of powerlessness and a feeling of not being seen and heard by the world around them. Defiant teenagers also tend to be angry.How do you deal with a difficult 13 year old? ›
- Don't forget to breathe. Your kid will survive this year. ...
- Spend 'neutral' time together. ...
- Stay calm. ...
- Don't take the stink eye personally. ...
- Get other adults in her life. ...
- Urge her to pursue healthy activities. ...
- Don't let her isolate herself. ...
- Take time to talk.
Don't Yell at or Challenge Your Child During an Angry Outburst. Many times parents deal with angry outbursts by challenging their kids and yelling back. But this will just increase your feeling of being out of control. The best thing you can do is remain calm in a crisis.How do you discipline a child without yelling or hitting? ›
- Give choices. A choice gives some control back to the child on the parents' terms. ...
- Take a timeout. ...
- Get someone else involved. ...
- Teach them what you expect. ...
- Recognize their positive behaviors. ...
- Timeout. ...
- Consequence. ...
- Pick your battles.
Yelling Can Fuel Anxiety, Depression, and Lower Self Esteem. Studies have found that children who are yelled at are prone to anxiety and have increased levels of depression.What are five methods for reducing aggression? ›
- Set out clear expectations.
- Build rapport and be understanding.
- Show cultural sensitivity.
- Avoid negative talk.
- Don't assume or make judgments.
- Be encouraging.
- Avoid power struggles.
- Manage problems.
- reducing access to possible victims.
- establishing reasonable norms and expectations.
- avoiding confrontation.
- minimizing competition.
- using nonverbal signals and reminders.
- providing desirable backup reinforcers.
- intervening early (before the onset of violent behavior)
Channel the aggression to other outlets.
Pounding clay, running, jumping on a trampoline, or playing a sport may help divert negative energy into something they enjoy. The creative arts such as writing, music, or drama may also be ways for your child to explore their feelings and passions in a socially acceptable way.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, Roman philosopher Seneca taught: “The greatest remedy for anger is delay.” This philosophy still rings true today, and today's political and social arenas would surely benefit from practicing delayed anger.How do you calm anger fast? ›
- Tell yourself to calm down. ...
- Force yourself to leave the situation. ...
- Use visualization to calm down. ...
- Count to 10 (or 50… or 100) if you feel like you're about to do or say something harmful. ...
- Splash some cold water on your face.
- Slow down and focus on your breathing.
The client can be asked to empathize with people who make them feel angry or whom they act aggressively toward. This is a perspective-taking exercise to help the client manage their anger, the anger of others, and increase opportunities for constructive communication (Cotterell, 2021).What are mental signs of anger? ›
- feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax.
- feeling guilty.
- feeling resentful towards other people or situations.
- you are easily irritated.
- 'red mist' comes down on you.
- feeling humiliated.
Kids can also develop defiant behaviors as a way to cope with trauma, abuse, or other negative life experiences. While genetics and bad experiences play a role, parenting does as well. Many loving parents unintentionally encourage defiance by disciplining in ways that are too permissive, too harsh, or inconsistent.What causes anger issues in a teenager? ›
Anger in teens is caused in part by biology. Teenagers' brains are still developing and their bodies are flooded with hormones that impact mood. Anger in teens can also signal deeper issues. Irritability, mood swings, or outbursts may be symptoms of disorders like anxiety, depression, and PTSD.Where do kids with anger issues go? ›
A child with anger issues needs help with regulation. If a child has frequent, prolonged anger episodes, seek professional help from a mental health provider such as a therapist, clinical psychologist, or adolescent psychiatrist.Do kids with ADHD have anger issues? ›
Emotional regulation can be challenging for children with ADHD, and bouts of anger are common. In fact, it's estimated that anywhere between 40–65 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD also have a condition called Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD, which includes anger as one of its symptoms.
- having a short attention span and being easily distracted.
- making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork.
- appearing forgetful or losing things.
- being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming.
- appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions.