Dealing with Aggressive Behaviors on Buses

Aggressive behavior in children indicates a lack of self-control and creates feelings of fear, insecurity, and anxiety in a child. Head Start transportation staff can use this tip sheet to further their understanding of aggressive behaviors and to find strategies to deal with them.

Note: This resource is under review.

Aggressive behavior in children is disruptive in nature and indicates a lack of self-control. It creates feelings of fear, insecurity, and anxiety in a child. Examples of aggressive behaviors include: yelling, biting, scratching, kicking, hitting, fighting, bullying, and name-calling. During these times, children often find that they are unable to problem solve, communicate effectively, or respect others (45 CFR 1304.21(a)(3)(i)(c)).

Children who are exposed to unrealistic expectations or confusing situations are likely to react aggressively towards adults and other children. Therefore, adults need to be highly observant of children and anticipate their needs. No child should be left alone unsupervised (45 CFR 1304.52(h)(iii)). By redirecting children through clear and consistent language and realistic expectations, adults may help children avoid an outburst of aggression.

  • The Bus Monitor can manage aggressive behavior on a bus route by constantly monitoring all children.
    • Simplify the need to discipline by addressing one behavior to all students:
      "Everyone should use their quiet voices on the bus."
    • Become more specific only if necessary:
      "Sasha, please keep your hands off of Minh's jacket."
    • Encourage respect for the feelings and rights of others:
      "Heidi feels sad today. Maybe we can cheer her up with a song."
      "We need to share the bus seats with our neighbor."
    • Encourage children by using coaching language:
      "I would like everyone to walk down the aisle. Let's count the steps to your seat."
      "Red light means 'stop talking' light means 'you can talk.'"
      (hold up red and green paddles simulating lights)

      "I would like everyone to keep their hands to themselves while the bus is moving. Raise your hand if your restraint system is buckled...Hurray!"
  • Never discipline using methods like isolating a child, rewarding or punishing with food, or denying the basic needs of a child.
    • Give children immediate feedback on their behavior:
      "What a nice line! Everyone is standing without pushing."
      "Jingyu, you listened and sat down. Good job."
    • Allow children time to relearn correct procedures:
      "Sarah, show us how you use the handrail. Thank you."
      "Let's show the Bus Driver how we can walk down the aisle to our seats."
  • Treat all races, religions, family backgrounds, and cultures with respect.
    • Help children respect differences in clothing.
    • Help children address all adults with respect by modeling the use of Mr., Mrs., or appropriate honorific terms in the language of the community.
  • Help children to solve problems and to resolve differences.
    • If a situation of aggressive behavior presents itself, intervene and enforce the consequences for unacceptable or harmful
      "Katie, stop hitting Linda. That is unacceptable. You need to move now and sit next to me."
  • Use positive methods of child guidance without engaging in corporal punishment, emotional or physical abuse, or humiliation (45 CFR 1304.52(h)(1)(iv)).
    "Jason, those are bad words that we don't use. Remember, you're going to show us good behavior today."
    "Maurice, you need to stay buckled in your seat. You have a choice; you can sit in this seat by yourself like a big boy or you can come sit next to me."

Note: This tip sheet is intended to assist Head Start transportation staff to deal with aggressive behaviors. Local needs must be considered when a program establishes its own transportation services.