No single reason can explain aggressive behavior in children. An aggressive child’s behavior plan must be specific to the child and address her specific triggers and calming strategies. Behavior plans are often a product of input from many parties, including parents, teachers, psychiatrists and counselors. Social worker Janet Lehman of Empowering Parents explains that this kind of collaboration between parents and other caregivers is an effective way to maintain consistency in the behavior plan.
Before creating a behavior plan, parents and the child’s teachers and treating clinicians should work together to assess the scope and causes of the child’s aggressive behavior and its causes. This assessment might include psychological testing, IQ testing, a psychiatric evaluation and medical testing. Additionally, treating clinicians will likely ask the child’s parents and teachers to fill out self-report inventories that evaluate the scope, severity and frequency of the aggressive behaviors.
Triggers to Anger
A behavior plan for aggressive children might involve a detailed description of the child’s triggers that prompt angry, aggressive behavior. For example, some children become aggressive when they are denied what they want or when they are asked to complete a task they find frustrating. Identifying and outlining these triggers to aggression can prepare parents, teachers and other people who work with the child to anticipate angry outbursts.
Physical Signals and De-escalation Strategies
Some children are able to identify physical triggers to their aggressive behaviors. For instance, some children experience headaches, stomachaches or get hot when they feel aggressive behaviors coming on, according to the Child Welfare Training Institute Institute for Public Sector Innovation. Identifying these early signs can help parents and teachers intervene early. However, to do so, the treatment planning team will need to identify de-escalation strategies specific to the child, according to Irene van der Zande of the nonprofit organization Kid Power. For example, some children might be able to calm themselves down by sitting alone in a quiet room, while others might be able to de-escalate through drawing or play.
In addition to preventing aggressive outbursts, an individualized behavior plan might include a safety plan that outlines what steps each party will take if the child has a violent outburst. This plan might include strategies such as calling the child’s parents, juvenile probation officer, counselor or psychiatrist. Furthermore, the safety plan should list steps parties can take to ensure that the child does not harm himself or others, such as calling in a professional crisis intervention team or using mental health or education professionals trained in nonviolent restraint procedures.