Anger is something we all need to deal with, whether it is our own anger or the anger being expressed by someone we are with. Whether we are parents, teachers, youth-group leaders, counselors... anyone dealing with other people, anger is going to come up.
Reach And Teach believes that it is critical for peacemaking and social justice that children learn how to deal with anger as early as possible. Of course we, as adults in their lives, can offer the best examples of how to deal with anger. How are you doing with that? Maybe this teach-in can help.
One of the best books we've ever encountered on a healthy way to deal with anger is Ahn's Anger (pictured below). It is one of many resources we have available for sale at Reach And Teach. Click here to view more products available from Reach and Teach dealing with anger management for kids and teens.
Anger is a normal feeling. How we respond to our anger can either be healthy or toxic. This teach-in offers you an opportunity to help kids (and adults) look at anger, how they react to it, whether their reaction is healthy or toxic, whether that reaction achieves good or bad outcomes, and how they might react differently to achieve better outcomes.
You are welcome to use this teach-in to create your own presentation or to just use it for your own development.
The Goals: The goals when trying to deal with anger are pretty simple:
Recognize and acknowledge when you feel angry
Identify how anger effects your body, how you feel when you are angry
Analyze how you currently react to anger, how you typically respond
Determine how your current responses are working out for you
Develop healthier responses to anger, alternatives to toxic responses
Plan a strategy to employ those healthy responses and try that strategy
Evaluate how things are working out and adjust as needed
Anger - A Normal Emotion!
It is really important to understand, admit, and acknowledge that anger is a normal emotion.
Dr. Wilde, in an adaptation from part of his Hot Stuff book, says this about anger:
Let me make certain one important point gets covered before we move forward. ANGER IS NOT INHERENTLY GOOD OR BAD. It is what people do with anger that is important. As you have probably observed, anger can lead people to make poor choices such as engaging in acts of violence. But anger can also motivate individuals to speak out against injustice and attempt to right a wrong.
Anger is also a very misunderstood emotion. One of our goals with this web page is to dispel some of the myths and rumors surrounding anger. Even though this information is under the "Help for Parents" section, the next bit of text is designed to allow you to help your children or students. Please feel free to print this information to help take the first important step toward anger management. This first step involves helping kids understand where their feelings come from.
The biggest myth is that, "Anger is caused by other people and other things." It seems true but I can prove to you it's false. I'm going to use a story called "the blind man on the bus" to help me.
If you were riding on a bus and felt a sudden, sharp poke in the ribs, how would you feel? Most people say they would probably feel irritated or angry and some say they would feel scared. That's normal. Let's say, just for this example, that you would feel angry. You might be thinking something like, "That stupid jerk. He ought to be careful. You shouldn't just poke people in the ribs." Those thoughts would clearly lead you to be angry.
Now suppose you look over to see who had poked you and realize it was a blind man. He was taking off his sweater and he accidentally poked you with his elbow. Now how would you feel? Most people say they would feel sad or even embarrassed that they were angry with the man. Here's the important part…YOU STILL GOT POKED IN THE RIBS! The event (getting poked in the ribs) was exactly the same but your feelings changed from anger to sadness or embarrassment. Clearly, if events and people MADE you angry, then the same exact event couldn't immediately cause two different feelings. The feelings must be controlled by something else. That "something else" is your THOUGTHS.
When you saw it was a blind man who had poked you, your thoughts probably changed to something like, "It was an accident. He didn't mean to do it." Those thoughts would make your anger disappear. So the biggest myth about anger is that other people and other things CAUSE anger. They don't. Your THOUGHTS cause anger and that's good news because if your thoughts cause anger, you can learn to change your thoughts to manage your angry feelings.
When is the last time you were angry? Think about that and try answering these questions (which were adapted from an article entitled Weaving Anger Management into Classroom Culture):
1. What was the trigger that made you feel angry? Did:
you do something that triggered your anger
you say something that triggered your anger
someone else do or say something that triggered your anger
something happen (that wasn't directly caused by someone else) that triggered your anger
2. Where were you when this happened? Were you:
On the playground
In the car
3. Describe how angry you felt:
4. (This may be a harder question for some to answer.) What was happening with your body when you were angry - where did you feel the anger?
In my stomach
In my head
In my chest
Over my whole body
Nowhere in particular
5. How did you handle your anger?
I yelled at someone
I broke something
I hit someone
I talked through it
I told someone how I felt
I threatened to hurt someone
I ran away
I threw something
6. How did that work out for you? Was the outcome good or bad?
7. How would you rate your handling of the situation?
Not very good
Not too bad
8. What might you do differently next time?
Recognizing the Feelings
Most people know that they can and should handle their anger in a healthier manner, but many of us don't really have the tools for doing so. One of the most important tools is recognizing how our own bodies react when we get angry. In that extra second or two between the time our bodies first react to whatever stimulus is making us angry, and how we respond to that anger, we can stop...... breathe...... and choose a different path.
Go through the previous eight questions thinking about two or three different times when you have gotten angry. Work hard to see if you can remember where in your body you felt that anger. Don't worry if you can't remember! Make that something you think about the very next time you get angry about something and go through these questions again. Once you have a good idea of how your body reacts to anger, you can try out one of Dr. Jerry Wilde's techniques for managing your anger. Dr. Wilde is the author of Hot Stuff to Help Kids Chill Out - The Anger Management Book. Here's an excerpt from that book:
I hope that you all are here reading this information by your own free will. I hope that your parents or teachers haven't strapped you into a chair using duct tape and are forcing you to read this section of the webpage. If you are, please don't blame me! Just keep reading (or listening) because I might be able to help.
I'm going to give you an idea that could help you keep from blow up. A lot of the kids that I've worked with have very "short fuses" and go from happy to angry in a matter of seconds. If this is you, I want to teach you a trick that can keep you out of trouble.
The trick is called "Distraction" and it will work if you use it. It works because it is designed to stop, or at least interrupt, your anger producing thoughts. We know that thoughts have a huge influence on what we feel. We feel how we think. Distraction is designed to short circuit the anger connection in your brain.
First, think of either the funniest or happiest event you can remember. Maybe it's a birthday party, the day you got your pet, hit a home run, or any other happy event. It could also be something funny. The event I use happened when I was in 6th grade. I was at my friend Kirk's house and he took a big drink of chocolate milk just as somebody made a joke. He laughed and that caused chocolate milk to come pouring out of his nose! Whenever I'm getting really angry I just think of Kirk's face when the chocolate milk was running out of his nose and I can't stay mad. In fact, I usually crack up thinking about it.
The second thing you have to do is figure out where you first notice that you're starting to feel angry. Is it in your face? Do you notice you're getting warm all over or feel tense? Do you get a funny feeling in your stomach? Do you make fists? Whatever it is, just learn to pay attention to the signal that tells you that you're getting angry. We'll call it your "cue."
Now, distraction works like this…when you notice your first bodily cue that you're getting angry, you are to switch to your distraction scene. As soon as you feel the first cue coming on, switch to your funny or happy scene and stay there (in your mind) until the angry feelings pass.
By distracting yourself away from the situation you are getting angry about, you can give yourself a second or two to think before your act. That couple of seconds might make the difference between handling a situation correctly and losing it. You have to practice this to get good at it (just like everything in life.) Write or draw your distraction scene and practice switching to that scene before you're in a tough situation. If you use this distraction scene, it can keep you out of a lot of unnecessary hassles in like and we all could use a few less hassles.
A few seconds, a bit of distraction, a different kind of reaction, really can be the difference between good and bad outcomes of anger. No matter how old or young you are you can learn new ways to handle anger. We hope this short teach-in was helpful and invite you to share other resources you know about with us so that we can tell others about them.
Please note: We've made this sound pretty simple but please realize that you may need extra help dealing with your anger and how you react when angry. If you are hurting yourself or other people when you are angry, please seek out professional help to deal with that anger. Talk to a psychologist/psychiatrist/therapist, social worker, guidance counselor, parent, trusted friend, or minister, and let that person know what's happening. You are NOT alone. There are people who can help and who want to help you.
Anxiety & Anger: Dr. Wilde recently published a new book for kids called Hot Stuff to Help Kids Worry Less. Very often anxiety (fear) can lead to anger. If you have a child in your life who suffers from anxiety, please consider sharing this terrific resource with that child.