Tag Archive: anger management

Many adults have a hard time dealing with anger, so you can imagine that many children are in the same boat.  Managing anger in an appropriate and healthy  manner is a learned skill, so here are some tips to help you teach your child how to effectively deal with their anger:

  1. Be a Good Role Model. Kids model behavior, so one of the most effective tools you can use to teach your child is to manage your own anger in an appropriate and healthy manner.
  2. Remain Calm. If your child is in the middle of a tantrum, it is important to remain calm and to resist engaging with your child until he/she has calmed down.  If you can effectively help your child get calm, then do so.  Otherwise, wait until the storm has passed.  This will help you to remain calm, as well as help your child learn that problem solving only happens when everyone is calm and in control.
  3. Help Your Child Express His/Her Feelings. Often, children get angry because they cannot express themselves effectively.  Expanding your child’s feelings vocabulary can really help.  Tip: It’s best to expand the vocabulary when your child isn’t angry.  Practice using the new feeling words when your child is displaying anger, or when he/she witnesses somebody else in anger.  Ask them what they think that person might be feeling.
  4. Develop Anger Management Strategies Together. All children (and adults) should learn the golden rule to help calm the anger response:  deep breathing and counting to 10.  Above and beyond that, it is helpful if the two of you come up with other strategies together.
  5. Give Praise. If your child shows improvement in dealing with their anger, give lots of praise.  This will help them continue to develop the healthy behavior, rather than the unhealthy behavior.  When they don’t do as well as you would hope, resist admonishing them, making them feel shameful.  Remember how easy it is for anger to get the better of anyone, and that it takes practice and repetition.  Once the situation has de-escalated, talk with your child about how things could have gone differently.  Get your child involved in coming up with an alternative scenario of how he/she could have handled their anger better.  This gets the two of you ‘on the same side’ and helps your child take ownership over their own behavior.

In Part 2 of our anger management series, we focused on how to diffuse the anger bomb in the moments leading up to a possible explosion.   In Part 3 of this series, we will focus on tips and strategies to help you lessen that heightened anger response and reduce your need to employ the strategies we discussed in part two.   If you commit to the process, you will see a dramatic decrease in both the quantity and intensity of your anger response.

  1. Determine if you need to seek help. Some of us cannot grapple with our anger demons alone, and would be best served to seek the help of a professional.  Take stock of your life and the role your anger plays in it.  Is it destructive? Is it severe?  Does it destroy relationships?  Does it rule your life?   How often are you very angry?  Do you feel out of control much of the time?  Ask your friends and family, people you trust to be honest with you, whether they think you should seek help.  Remember, you are not your anger.  If you do, in fact, need help, it does not mean there is something wrong with you.  It simply means that, for whatever reason, you have not yet learned how to effectively deal with what is otherwise a natural, normal emotion, and that you need a little help to do so.
  2. Keep an anger log. Log every time you get angry, and the situation or person that angered you.  This will give you clues as to what your particular anger triggers are.  If something consistently angers you, you can set up your life to avoid that trigger as much as possible.  For instance, if your anger is constantly triggered by your teenaged son’s messy room, keep the door shut.  If you don’t see it, it won’t anger you.  Or, if you consistently become infuriated in rush hour traffic and have to commute to work every day in that traffic, consider taking the train instead, or carpooling with someone who does the driving half of the time for you.
  3. Stop demanding, start desiring. People who are chronically angry tend to demand things such as fairness, appreciation, and the willingness of others to do things their way.   Most people want these very same things and feel hurt and disappointed when they don’t get them.  But, there is a difference between wanting / desiring and demanding.  When angry people demand, their hurt and disappointment quickly turns into anger.  No one will ever be able to give you exactly what you need in the exact moment you need it, every single time.   That unrealistic expectation and demand is what sets you up for your anger response in the first place, rather than the normal emotions of hurt and disappointment.
  4. Practice gratitude. It’s hard to be angry when you are grateful.   A gratitude practice will go a long way to help you feel less angry.  Oprah is famous for her gratitude journal and talks about it a lot because it is a powerful tool.  Make it a daily practice to write down five things you are grateful for that day.  It teaches your mind to look for what you can be grateful for as you go through your day.  It can be something as simple as the great piece of fish you had for dinner or something that cuts a little deeper like the health of your child.  A mind with that type of focus will be much less likely to get caught up in the common, daily struggles of life that can cause a person with anger issues to explode.  
  5. Practice forgiveness. Harboring grudges and holding on to past wrongs is a sure fire way to stay in anger mode.  We are human and we make mistakes.  Often, it is our mistakes that lead to our greatest growth.   If someone hurts you or wrongs you, forgive and let go, for your sake as well as theirs (after you’ve calmly stated your concerns and grievances of course).   It’s toxic to hold onto grudges and will make you anger more easily. 
  6. Practice the art of listening. Too often, miscommunication and misunderstanding are the culprits of our anger triggers.  That is why it is so important to hone your listening skills.  When someone is speaking to you, really dial in on what they are saying, rather than preparing your own response or focusing too much on how they are saying it.  (This especially applies in arguments because people often don’t say things in the best possible way when they are angry.)  A good technique to employ is to immediately reflect back what you just heard someone say.  That way, if you got it wrong, they have the opportunity to correct it and you don’t risk getting angry for no reason.
  7. Live each day as if it was your last. Very often, the things that trigger an anger response are pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things.  If you consciously live each day knowing that you are not guaranteed another, you won’t get caught up in the little, everyday grievances.  Instead, you’ll get caught up in the everyday, breathtaking beauty that we too often take for granted, such as the smile of someone we love, the kindness of a stranger, the beauty of a blue sky, and music of laughter.

Part 2 of our anger management series focuses on tips and strategies to help you control your anger response in the very moment you are experiencing it.  As with anything, the following strategies will get easier over time, becoming more like second nature as you practice them.  Experiment to find out what works best for you; which tips and strategies help you to control and diffuse your anger response quickly and easily.  While these tips are designed to help you ‘in the moment’, they will also help you long term because the less you give in to your anger (and the more you become accustomed to these techniques), the less hard-wired your brain will be towards uncontrollable anger (and the more hard-wired it will be to the calming effects of these strategies).

  1. Take a time out and BREATHE. This is the first, very important step to diffusing anger, and it is very powerful.   Some experts tell you to count to ten; others say to take three long, deep breaths.  We say try both, together and separate, and see what works best for you.  Either way, it should be the very first strategy you employ when you start to feel the anger bubble up inside of you.
  2. Check in with your thoughts and downgrade as necessary. Often when we are angry, our thinking centers around words like “awful, terrible, everything is ruined” which contribute to how angry we are over a given situation.  Once you are calm, gain perspective and downgrade those thoughts to, “This is frustrating and annoying, but not the end of the world.  I can find a solution to this issue.”
  3. Express Your Anger Clearly and Assertively without Aggression. When you are calm, express your concerns in a non-confrontational, direct manner.  State your needs clearly, and without hurting others.  Stay away from “always” and “never”, in both your thoughts and speech.   When you think in terms of “he always does this,” and “she’ll never change”, it fools you into thinking your intense anger response is justified and that there is no solution to the problem.  When spoken, it alienates and humiliates the people around you and makes problem-solving very difficult.  Instead, stick with “I” statements, like “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to do the dishes,” instead of “You never help out around the house.  I always have to do everything.”
  4. Think before you speak. Anger can cause us to say things we would never dream of in our more calm and loving moments.   Words can hurt and can’t be taken back once spoken.  When anger is involved, it is wise to pause before speaking and ask yourself, “Do I really want to say this? Is there a better way to express how I am feeling?”  If you are unsure, imagine how you would feel if what you are about to say was said to you.
  5. Focus on solutions. If you keep focusing on the problem (which is what angered you in the first place), it will be very hard to stay calm because every time you think of the problem, you will be angered all over again.  Instead, purposely switch your focus on finding a solution to the problem.

Anger is an emotion, plain and simple.  It is neither good nor bad, although it is often painted with the brush of being a “bad” emotion.  In reality, there is no such thing.  All emotions are natural and normal, anger included.  However, like any other emotion, anger can become unhealthy and “bad” when it spirals out of control, when you can’t or won’t express it properly, and when you get “stuck” in it.  When anger becomes unhealthy, it can negatively affect not only your relationships and quality of life, but your health as well.

How you express anger is an important component to whether your anger is healthy or unhealthy.  The instinctive, natural way is to respond aggressively.  After all, anger exists to help us survive situations where we are attacked.  In that respect, it is essential to our survival.  However, since we can’t lash out aggressively in the everyday occurrences that anger us, we have developed other conscious and unconscious ways to express our anger.  The three most common ways are 1.) to express the anger in an assertive, but not aggressive way, 2.) to suppress the anger, and 3.) to calm the anger.  The healthiest approach is to express your anger in an assertive, non-aggressive manner, but many people employ the calming approach first in order to get a ‘hold’ of the emotion before they feel able to express it assertively without the aggression.  This is completely fine as long as you follow it up by expressing  your anger in a healthy manner once you’ve gotten it under control. Suppressed and unexpressed anger is very toxic and can lead to all sorts of problems including health issues, destructive passive-aggressive behavior, anger explosions that are out of proportion to the situation, and a chronically cynical negative outlook towards life in general.

It is a mistaken belief that if you let it “all out” or vent your anger, it will offer relief.  In fact, it does the opposite, escalating the anger emotion and rendering problem solving and solution finding practically impossible.  Unless you are being attacked in such a way that your life is in jeopardy, or the life of someone you hold dear is in immediate danger, it is not recommended to let your anger loose like that.  It will do you no good in normal, everyday circumstances.

The overarching goal of anger management is to control your anger response.  After all, we cannot control outside circumstances and it is futile to try.  We can only control our response to them.  In Part 2 of this series, we will discuss tips and strategies to employ in the immediate moment to help control an anger response.  Part 3 will delve into long-term strategies to minimize the anger response, and Part 4 will offer advice on how to help your child with his or her anger emotions.

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