Alternative Option

Session 8:  

Toxic behaviours and relationships

Session overview

Building on the idea that we transmit a particular image of ourselves to the world, Session Eight will consider a specific area of threat or risk: 

The session aims to explore the critical components of such risk (e.g. how such scenarios might come about, the sequence of possible events that lead to being influenced or 'groomed' and the potential outcome / consequence). Examining these components will highlight how other young people can be lured by negative influences to help pupils consider and take a proactive approach to keep themselves safe. 

Finally, the central message of the session is once again focused on understanding choice. However, while previously, this has been a recognition that young people can and should control their own decisions, this session outlines that others also have the right to make choices and how we must be respectful of that by not trying to force our own will on someone else to further our own position or status among our friends and peers. We can never expect someone to respect our choices unless we learn to and clearly demonstrate respect for others' choices.

The session provides a valuable precursor to Session Nine, where pupils will build on this work, plotting who is in their Circle of Trust with a clearer understanding of the criteria they can apply when building their network.

A. Session aims & objectives

B. Learning outcomes

C. Terminology introduced

Example definitions of key terminology are included but, wherever possible, use pupils' own agreed descriptions as per previous sessions.

TOXIC: Very harmful or damaging. In relationship terms, feeling unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned, or attacked.

TOXIC RELATIONSHIP:  When your wellbeing is threatened in some way—emotionally, psychologically, and even physically.

D. Resources required

Pupils handheld devices (eg iPads, Chromebooks) 

❏ Checklist for Session Eight (alternative)

Resource Sheet 8AA: Relationship radar

❏ Slide pack for Session Eight (alternative)

Starter activity: Session seven recap

At this point in the programme, it's helpful to begin preparing pupils for the potentially complex and emotive discussions that will take place (for example, during Activity 2). Therefore, both the starter and the plenary provide valuable opportunities to 'check in' with how pupils feel. 

Recap and review ground rules as a class.


Discuss any rules created that worked well, together with any that didn't work – do they need to change?


Make amendments if required. Either way, ensure that pupils understand why we have ground rules and why these are essential.


Up until this point, we've focused on: 

We'll look at the potential outcomes of allowing this to happen during this activity, considering Marcus' situation and the possible consequences of his actions. Then we'll look at specific examples of relationships that just don't feel right and where someone might try to influence our thinking.

Introduce Learning Outcomes for this session. 

ASK: (open question to pupils by teacher)

Pupils should indicate how they feel with a simple gesture such as thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs in the middle. You may wish to reassure anyone feeling uncomfortable by referring back to the ground rules and explaining that we will debate and challenge ideas, not each other. The purpose of this is to inform our thinking, which may require us to respectfully and appropriately disagree with each other. This is a vital part of any healthy debate. 

Activity one: Marcus in the world 

Linking back to the earlier sessions, this activity builds on the basic needs that drive us and how these may conflict with doing what we consider to be correct behaviours. Pupils will bring together this knowledge and apply it to Marcus' situation right at the end of the story. 


Look back at the point in the story where Marcus' friends want him to join them in breaking into Old Man Baker's flat. 

Pupils should work in pairs and discuss the potential outcomes of Marcus' situation. 

SHOW:  Slide 2: Marcus' decision — Potential outcomes 

Pupils should be asked to imagine what might drive Marcus' thoughts and choices. 

ASK: (open question to pupils by teacher)

Pupils should think back to the basic human needs: 


Marcus' need to belong has brought him to this point.  His strongest driver might now be his need to survive  this situation.  However, he still has the power to make a positive or negative choice, and the right choice might not necessarily be the obvious one. 


POSITIVE CHOICE - helping the old man 

NEGATIVE CHOICE - leave them carry on and do nothing 

Marcus is perhaps acting out of a need to belong and/or the sense of power this situation gives him. All of this has previously led him to make negative decisions. Now Marcus may also have to balance his need to be free and enjoy life, both of which could be under threat. 

Whatever the reason, the fact is that Marcus' needs have placed him in this situation. Marcus has been influenced, leading him to potentially make a negative choice. This could result in harm to others. 

Activity two: Understanding toxic behaviour 

Fear, insecurity and our basic needs can lead us to act negatively towards our peers to achieve our own individual advancement in social status. In this case, we are not necessarily being exploited by predators, but the effect can be similarly damaging for young people on the receiving end of such behaviour.

Acting in a negative or ‘toxic’ way could be the result of prejudices or stereotypes around race, gender, religion or any other factor that makes someone appear ‘different’. In this case, they'll consider toxic behaviours linked to gender and how this impacts their relationships. They'll also use the understanding gained from Marcus' experiences to help them 'frame' how young people can sometimes become vulnerable to opinions that influence them to behave in unacceptable ways. 

During this activity, pupils are asked to explore terms and concepts, focusing on just one example of individuals or groups that prey upon others, in this example, our direct or near-peer group. Helping young people understand and work through such issues enables them to construct what might be described as an 'alternative narrative', simply a different perspective to one they might be offered in the media, online or from particular friendship or peer groups. The ability to construct alternatives inevitably requires some understanding of the motivation driving the person or group trying to influence them. 

As this can be a sensitive subject, care should be taken in delivering these messages. The use of ground rules is, therefore, particularly beneficial here.


Doing harm to others is sometimes seen as a legitimate way to act. In some ways, the boys in the story felt that breaking into the old man's flat (and therefore ignoring how this might affect him) was fine. 

Some individuals and groups in our societies promote prejudice, hatred, and even violence against other groups or individuals. They'll often exploit others (particularly young people) to gain support for their views believing that doing so will get them what they want.


SHOW: Slides 4-7: Terminology  to help pupils by talking through the definitions


We will look at our relationships with other people and consider what makes them healthy or unhealthy. Defining and discussing good and bad relationships helps us to recognise them when we see them. It also means that we can seek out relationships with those people who have our - and everyone’s - best interests at heart.

It's important to note that toxic relationships are not limited to romantic relationships. They exist in families, in the workplace, and among friendship groups — and they can be extremely harmful, especially if you don't know how to change things, or protect yourself from such behaviour.


Allow pupils to briefly discuss in small groups and then encourage them to feed their discussions back to the whole class, drawing out the following points relating them back to the previous session on basic human needs and how these might drive someone to behave in a toxic manner. 

Try to highlight:


Draw out examples from the following lists. These will also form the basis of Activity 3.

Toxic behaviours











Healthy behaviours













As we saw in the story, this is often about how others might feel. 

When someone feels left out, less important, or has less of a say within a group, one way they might try to overcome this is to criticise and diminish others in the hope that by lowering their status, they increase their own. When someone feels less liked, they can exaggerate their behaviour to appear dominant, in control or attract the greater attention of the (peer) group. Their needs are then damagingly influencing their own behaviour, and if others allow them to be affected, they, too, are influenced. These behaviours can then grow among our groups, communities and even society, where they might become 'normalised' (i.e. become a regular part of how people act towards each other). We should therefore make our own choices and work hard to avoid being influenced either by our own basic needs (if they drive negative behaviour) or by the choices and needs of others.

Of course, there are some legitimate reasons why we might want to appeal to a group, and the explanation might be found in our evolutionary past. Historically, status within a group brought protection, food, and respect, ultimately leading to a greater probability of survival. So it's programmed into us to seek the acceptance of others.

However, generally speaking, any relationship that makes you feel worse rather than better can be described as toxic. These unhealthy relationships can exist in just about any context, from the playground to the home to very intimate relationships between two people. You may even deal with toxic relationships among your family members.


Not all toxic relationships are abusive; however, all abusive relationships can be considered toxic. In a toxic relationship, there is usually a lack of respect or boundaries. Sometimes, this behaviour occurs without the person realising they're doing it. Still, if it's consistently repeated with the active intent to harm the other person, the relationship could be considered abusive. Abuse can take many forms—psychological, emotional, or physical. We all need to have people we can trust and confide in, and we'll look at this in more detail next time.

Note: Ensure pupils know how your school can support them if they have any concerns triggered by what you have been discussing during the session. You may need to consider this and any disclosures in line with your school’s safeguarding practices.

Activity three: Toxic or healthy?
Spotting the signs of someone trying to influence you 

This activity seeks to simplify and explain some of the risk factors that vulnerable people might demonstrate. It's essential to explain to pupils that it does not automatically mean someone is 'bad' just because they have displayed these behaviours in their relationships. However, the prevalence of these warning signs can indicate increased risk, and pupils should equally be aware of this to help protect themselves and others.


Only you can tell if the bad outweighs the good in a relationship. Still, if someone consistently threatens your wellbeing by what they're saying, doing, or not doing, it's likely an unhealthy or toxic relationship. 

We must be the ones who make our choices, and we must remove ourselves from relationships with those who want to satisfy their needs, not ours. We've talked about how people might want to influence us to improve their own lives or feelings of worth, and not always because they have poor intent towards us. We must recognise such behaviour to remove us from harm and prevent us from following others unquestioningly. 

Here are some examples of situations and behaviour that could demonstrate harmful or toxic influence:

SHOW: Slide 8: Toxic influence


To determine if a relationship is becoming toxic, it's essential to look at which behaviours are most frequently displayed. If one or both of you are consistently selfish, negative, and disrespectful, you could create toxicity in the relationship. On the other hand, if you're primarily encouraging, compassionate, and respectful, then there might just be specific issues that you need to address. Recognising the signs of toxicity — whether in you or the other person is essential. 

Let’s look back through the example from the story we examined in the first activity. Note how Marcus' relationship with his friends is a probable driver of these needs.

Refer pupils to the list they came up with earlier in the session, adding any below that they didn't come up with and then using this as the basis to complete Resource Sheet 8AA: Relationship radar

Working in threes, find, note and discuss your examples using Resource Sheet 8AA: Relationship radar.

You might ask half of the class to focus on the relationship between Marcus and Luka (the boy who tries to get him to go along to Mr Baker's flat) and the other half to focus on the relationship between Marcus and Andy to contrast the different types of relationship.  lternatively, you could task pupils to review the story to see if there are other examples of behaviours that you think might be becoming toxic.

Allow pupils time to discuss their ideas and ask a few to share their thoughts with the class. 


You’ve plotted your relationships and so you should be able to see a shape to that relationship. Is it mainly ‘small’ and negative with scores close to the centre, suggesting that it is unhealthy? Or is it mainly ‘large’ and positive suggesting it is healthy?

Discuss their results and compare and contrast the different opinions on the same relationships if there are some. 

If there's time, and if appropriate, follow this up with pupils by getting them to think about one of their own relationships and plot it on a new copy of the Resource Sheet 8AA: Relationship radar.


Review terminology, any new language and critical learning introduced today. 

'Check in' with pupils, ensuring that they are OK and comfortable with the session's content.


Research shows that the exact needs that led Marcus to the situation at the old man's flat are also used to drive, influence or 'groom' individuals to participate in harmful behaviour, even among their friends. 

Today, we've seen the potential impact of negative influence and toxic behaviours, and we've learned that while we all have a choice and the right to exercise our choices, we must ensure that others, too, enjoy a similar right to make choices, even if they might not align with our own.


Pupils should think of one positive thing they could do to make themselves more resilient to negative behaviours (e.g. try to live by British values, promote and protect the rights of others, especially children, etc.). Encourage them to talk about how they might better manage their relationships with others, as this will be a crucial feature of the next session.

Briefly poll the class to compile a list of pupils' ideas. 

Delivery resources

Lime 2022-23 Year 5 Session 8 Alternative Checklist.pdf

Delivery checklist

Lime 2022-23 Year 5 Session 8 Alternative Resource Sheet 8AA.pdf

Resource sheet(s)

Lime 2022-23 Year 5 Session 8 Alternative Slides (PDF version).pdf

Slides (PDF)

Lime 2022-23 Year 5 Session 8 Alternative Slides (PowerPoint version).pptx

Slides (PowerPoint)