The Live

Expert Help area at our web site ( is being inundated with requests for aid for just a single problem area. Frankly, we are very concerned to be getting so many requests for help with students who are verbally abusing, defying or hitting their teacher. Yes, that sentence included the phrase "hitting their teacher." In the time that it has taken me to type that last sentence, we received another plea for help from yet another teacher, this request coming from a 28 year veteran. These reports are coming from mainstream settings, not from specialized settings for the most extreme children and youth.

Yes, it has obviously gotten harder to manage students in the last few years. Regardless, our view has stayed the same: Students should never be allowed to get anywhere near an aggressive level of behavior with anyone at school, certainly not the teacher. By the time the situation has reached the point where students are kicking the teacher-- as we have heard from several of you-- it will be very challenging to turn the situation around. But, you may wonder, how can a teacher be expected to stay in charge of increasingly out-of-control students? Well, for those of us who have worked in both mainstream and specialized settings, we know that the level of behavior at the typical day treatment center, residential treatment center or juvenile hall, is usually far superior to that in the mainstream even though the child served in the specialized setting, is usually much more troubled, out-of-control and uncooperative than their mainstream counterpart. That observation may indicate that at least some of your success managing a group depends not on the difficulty of the youth, but the skill and will of the adult.

If you feel afraid or concerned about managing your class or group, that fear or concern, however small, can be like a flashing neon light to some of your students. That tiny telltale bit of fear or uncertainty can signal "party time" to your most misbehaved youth and children, who will mine and exploit any shred of doubt or anxiety that you harbor.

We can't teach you how to not be scared of your students, but it will be critical that you somehow accomplish that, because all the anger control and violence prevention strategies in the world won't compensate for your lack of certainty that you can properly control and manage your young people. However, it can certainly help to educate yourself to understand the different types of children who can be violent or have anger control problems. If you also learn how to use different types of techniques with different types of youth, you can increase your confidence, in part, because you are now using more effective tools tailored to fit the different types of students you serve.

Hopefully, if you didn't already have the basics on how you must use a special set of tools with extremely misbehaved youth, you have learned some of that key information from this book when you read some of the preceding articles. You should have read about how very critical it is to use different strategies with these seriously acting-out youth and children. Those articles warned that without specialized approaches, you will continue to find that conventional methods regularly fail. If you don't recognize the term "conduct disorder," you may wish to re-visit some of the preceding articles or click over to our site ( right now and get at least a portion of those basics.

It shouldn't have to be said, but here we go: Maintaining control over your group is just about the most important thing you need to do each day. You don't have to be at all dictatorial but your group needs to know and feel that you are going to keep things "safe and okay," to quote one student. If your class members have been physically or verbally aggressive to you, or defied you on key matters, then stop all else that you do until you re-gain control. Re-gaining control is always much harder than starting off strong from the start, so it will not be easy. Expect to be tested even worse than you have been already until your acting-out students determine that you will not relinquish control. But the message I hope comes through is that you will not be able to teach, counsel, foster parent, supervise, coach or do whatever your job is, until you establish control-- so you might as well do what it takes starting right now.

Here are some unusual techniques that can help with the anger problems that you are seeing. Note that you must also have and use violence prevention/management techniques too, but we will focus on just anger interventions in this issue. Methods for violence-- including teaching respect, peer interaction, compliance, attitude, and motivation-- will be equally important to have and use.

Anger control problems are not chance occurrences. Students don't "get angry" like they "get a virus." Too often, it takes a frightening event to trigger action, but the time to address anger problems is long before they happen at a frightening level. Combatting anger problems in your setting requires an on-going, systematic effort that teaches skills, and also powerfully shapes and maintains the motivations and attitudes that a student needs to be in control. Here's some anger control methods to try:

I Could Control Myself-- If I Wanted When a student says that she or he does not need to improve their temper control now, that they will just do it later in their "real job," or when they're grown, ask the student how they will get the skills. When the student says they will just be able to do it, ask the student to show that ability now. Most students perform poorly. Next, ask the student: What will be any different in their "real job" or when they are grown?

Ask the student who will be left to assist him or her to gain anger control skills if they don't learn it from your site soon. Answer: The police, court and corrections systems.

I'll Just Deal Drugs
When a student says that he or she will just be able to deal drugs and avoid needing anger control, ask the student how effectively they can deal drugs once they have harassed, assaulted or abused their supplier and clients.

In the Work World
Relate the anger control problems to students' goals. Use some of our popular multiple choice quizzes, with questions like this one from our Temper and Tantrum Tamer book: Kwan Lee tantrums when mad. She wants to be a hair dresser. She'll discover that when she screams and turns red with rage, a) Customers don't even notice b) Customers walk out really fast c) Customers will come from all over the region to have their hair cut and styled by the tantrumming hair dresser.

Stop and Think
Construct a red stop sign and mount it on a ruler, but instead of just having the word "Stop" on the sign, put "Stop and Think." Drill students on managing their reactions to anger-provoking situations by role- playing the situations. Use the "Stop and Think" sign to freeze the action so you can cue the student on behaviors to use or avoid.

Find Work with a Temper Like That
Ask your students to name all the jobs and businesses they can do and blow up whenever they want. (There are none.)

Ask the students to play "Jocks in Jail," and consider what has happened to athletes like Mike Tyson and others who thought they could act however they wanted when angry. Review the fate of coaches like Bobby Knight to determine if regular outbursts lead to sustained employment.

If you like these methods, be sure to see our one-of-a-kind instant downloadable handouts and ebooks. They are all packed with truly unique, tested ways to transform your angry and aggressive students. Visit us at

Author's Bio: 

Get much more information on this topic at Author RuthHerman Wells MS is the director of Youth Change, ( Sign up for her freeProblem-Kid Problem-Solver magazine at the site andsee hundreds more of her innovative methods. Ruthis the author of dozens of books and provides workshops and training.For re-print permission for this article, contact the author by email (