By: Lisa Maddox, MS, RMHCI
Anger management is a crucial topic in therapy, and is one of the most common requests we get from parents on where to start with ABA therapy for their children. The first step in managing anger is to understand anger, so if you haven’t already, read part one of our series on anger here.
The power and energy provided by anger can be very helpful if we are feeling threatened or need it for survival. Our instinctive, natural way to express anger is through aggression. However, long-term anger has been linked to issues such as high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems. It can be linked to crime, abuse, other violent behavior, deterioration of work or personal relationships. We can’t physically lash out at everything that irritates us or makes us angry! It’s a good idea to use anger management techniques to help reduce the emotional and physiological responses that anger causes.
Tips for Managing Anger
- Think before you speak. When we are angry, it’s easy to say something we may regret. Before speaking, take a moment to collect yourself by taking a deep breath.
- Once you are calm, express your concern. It’s alright to be angry and express your frustration. Once you are calm, you can think clearly and assertively express your frustration in a nonconfrontational way.
- Get some exercise. Physical activity can help to reduce stress. If you find your anger escalating, go for a walk or run.
- Take a timeout. These are not just for kids! A few moments of quiet time can help you feel better and more prepared to handle the situation ahead.
- Identify a possible solution. Instead of focusing on what made you angry, try to think of a way to resolve the issue.
- Don’t hold a grudge. Holding a grudge doesn’t help behavior change, but forgiveness can help you move on from feelings of anger. Forgiveness is a powerful tool! You can write down the behavior that frustrated you, crumple it up and throw it away to let it go. You could even say, out loud, “I forgive you” either to the person directly, or to yourself.
- Use humor to release tension. Using a little appropriate humor in a heated situation can help diffuse tension. Avoid sarcasm though, that might hurt feelings and make things worse.
- Practice relaxation skills. When your temper flares, use your favorite relaxation skill to help you. You could practice deep-breathing, imagine your favorite place, listen to music, practice yoga, or repeat a calming word or phrase (e.g. “I can do this”).
Help your Child Manage their Anger
In addition to all the causes of anger we discussed in part one, there are many reasons children may be angry. These could include witnessing family members argue, being bullied, struggling with schoolwork or tests, friendship problems, coping with hormone changes during puberty, or feeling stressed, anxious or afraid. When we notice our kids struggling with anger, we can help them by:
- Helping them find their anger signs. If your child is able to spot their anger signs early, they may be able to make positive decisions before their mood escalates. Some signs could be fast heart beats, tense muscles, clenched teeth, fists, upset stomach.
- Encourage regular exercise. Simple exercises like a short walk, a jog or a bike ride can help reduce feelings of anger. Staying active can help improve feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.
- Be positive. Praising your child’s efforts, no matter how small, can help build their confidence in their abilities to manage their anger. Read more about teaching your child resilience here.
Tips your child can try to reduce feelings of anger:
- Count to 10
- Walk away, if they are able go to a private place to calm down
- Take a deep breath or do a breathing exercise
- Clench and unclench their fists
- Talk to a trusted adult
This is just a short list of many tips, tricks, and techniques to help manage anger. Not every technique works for every person and not every tip works in every situation. Combine strategies as you see fit! It is important to have several techniques to try when you are feeling angry and recognize that these might change based off your age or the situation. Try several of the techniques and find the right ones for your personality and your style.
Here at Florida Children’s Institute, we work with a lot of families on anger management and implementing the best strategies for you. If you have any questions, or you’d like to schedule an assessment, please contact us here!
Looking for more information about some of the topics we covered today? Here are some of our previous blogs the topics we discussed:
- Understanding Anger & Its Importance
- 10 Tips for Teaching Emotional Intelligence
- 7 Strategies for Teaching Resilience
If your child needs an opportunity to cool down when emotions are running hot, we highly recommend Roaring Mad Riley! It is both a picture and activity book, making it fun to learn how to pause and cool down, even when your kiddo is super upset. We love sharing our favorite books with clients & families, which is why we are so grateful to work with Bookshop to share books with you! If you make any purchase at Bookshop within 48 hours of using our links above, we receive 10% of your purchase, which we use to buy more books to use in session with our kiddos. It’s a win-win!
What to do When Your Temper Flares by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D.