Activities for Aggressive Adolescents

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Adolescence can be a challenging period for social, emotional and behavioral development, but it's also a deeply important time. This lesson offers activities you can use with adolescents who are displaying aggressive behaviors.

Aggression & Adolescents

Whether you're a teacher, a parent or a psychologist who works with adolescents, you know what a complicated developmental period this can be. Many adolescents are experiencing a newly complex emotional landscape and may be testing limits or asserting their independence in new ways. One issue that can come up at this time period is aggression. Adolescents are bigger and stronger than they used to be, and they're also dealing with very complicated sets of feelings. Sometimes, this and other experiences that they may be having can lead to aggressive behavior.

There are different kinds of aggression that come up among adolescents; for instance, some will show their aggression physically, while others will exhibit social and relational aggression that looks quite different, but can be equally damaging. The activities in this lesson will help you guide your adolescent students as they work through their aggression.

Physical Aggression

This section offers activities oriented toward helping adolescents who exhibit physical aggression.

Identify & Deescalate

Most adolescents who resort to physical aggression already understand why this behavior isn't acceptable, but they often feel at a loss when it comes to stopping themselves. This activity will help adolescents focus on managing their behavior.

Break students into small groups or partnerships, and ask each student to list three or four things that often happen to them before they behave aggressively. For instance, are they usually tired? Using technology? Arguing with a parent or friend? Explain that there are no right or wrong answers; they should simply be honest about their triggers.

Then, ask them to help each other brainstorm a list of three to five things they can do to deescalate their anger when one of these triggers occur. If they're usually aggressive when hungry, it can help to take a snack with them. If arguments trigger aggression, they might practice counting to ten very slowly. Each student should come away from the activity with a list of at least three new strategies they'll try the next time a trigger occurs.

Making Restitution

Sometimes, adolescents who struggle with aggression feel stuck in their reputation as aggressive people. This can lead to a spiral effect, causing more and more aggression. One way to break this cycle is to have your students think about what it means to make amends to people they've victimized.

Break them into partnerships, and have them create a short comic strip that represents their idea of restitution. Give them a chance to share and compare ideas. Finally, ask your students to give restitution a try; they might write a letter to someone, have a conversation, make a small gift or show random kindness. Discuss how this act feels when you next meet.

Relational Aggression

Here, you'll find activities focusing on minimizing relational aggression among adolescents.

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