Dealing With Anger
The Peaceful Parenting Newsletter
A free e-mail newsletter from Naomi Drew
Anger, like a hurricane, is a fact of life to be acknowledged and prepared for. The peaceful home, like the hoped-for warless world, does not depend on a sudden benevolent change in human nature. It does depend on deliberate procedures that methodically reduce tensions before they lead to explosions.
Dr. Haim Ginott
As I work furiously to meet my deadline for Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World, I will continue to send you excerpts and adaptations from earlier books. I hope you find this information helpful. I love hearing from you, so please drop me an e-mail to let me know how you are applying what you read to your lives. Or if you have some great stories you would like me to consider including in future issues, send them on to me.
Something that has been coming up a lot in my workshops and parenting courses is anger management - for kids and parents. The steps below have been used by hundreds of parents who have found them to be really useful, particularly the breathing (which I use every day of my life!).
Enjoy and be well.
Three Strategies for Managing Anger
1. Abdominal Breathing - Do you know that the simple act of breathing deeply can help you feel calm and relaxed? You can use deep breathing to calm yourself when you are upset, angry, frightened or nervous in practically any situation. Many well-known people do deep breathing before giving speeches, acting in plays, singing on stage, or participating in sports.
When we breathe deeply, we send oxygen to the brain and enable ourselves to think clearly while calming the body. When this happens we can more easily detach from feelings of anger, hurt, or upset. The pulse slows, the body relaxes, and before long we feel more in control. This is an invaluable tool for coping with whatever life throws at us.
Practice deep abdominal breathing with your children daily, and encourage them to use it initially just to relax. Before long you both will be able to use this technique when faced with anger - your own or someone elses. You can use the following text to teach abdominal breathing to your children and your entire family:
Introducing Deep Breathing
First sit up tall and put your hand on your lower abdomen. Imagine this part of your stomach is like a balloon that you can fill with air. Take in a slow deep breath in through the nose and imagine the air going right down to your abdomen. Hold the breath in for a moment, and gently let it out through your nose. As you do, deflate your stomach. Now try it again. Breath in slowly, deeply, and gently. Let the air fill your stomach and chest Feel the air inside your body and hold it there for a moment. Now let it out, slowly, gently, and quietly.
Now try this with your eyes closed. Breathe in slowly and gently through your nose. Bring the breath deep inside and expand your abdomen. Hold the breath for a moment and then let it out gently through your nose. How did that feel? Does your body feel more relaxed now? Does your mind? Try this whenever you need to. Doing deep breathing can even help you relax before going to sleep. Just think - this is something you can do thats absolutely free and will always make you feel better.
2. Use Positive Self-Talk - Anger is magnified by the thoughts we think. Researchers have found that we actually heighten our own reactions to angry situations by the negative statements that come into our minds. A parent might think,These kids are driving me crazy! Im not cut out to be a mother! A child might think,Jamie took my favorite doll again. I wish I didnt have a sister! Our bodies react to anger, giving us uncomfortable sensations like a rapidly beating heart or dry mouth. These physical sensations are compounded by the thoughts that come into our minds, sometimes unbidden. The combination of tense physical sensations and negative thoughts can lead to volatile reactions.
The good news is - we can gain control over our negative reactions by replacing angry thoughts with positive ones. This, combined with deep breathing will help restore us (and our children) to a place of groundedness in the face of anger.
Think about the last time your were angry. What thoughts crossed your mind? Now, think about a statement you could have made to yourself that would have been in direct contrast. These kids are driving me crazy, could be changed to I can calm myself . My personal favorite is, I can handle this. I like the generic nature of this statement, the fact that it can be applied anywhere.
Positive self-statements should start with I can rather than I cant, or I wont. I can handle this is pro-active and positive. It gives us the message that we can gain control of a situation or feeling that seems out-of-control.
Below, write down a few positive self-statements you can make in the face of anger. Practice saying them in your mind as you replay angry situations youve dealt with in the past. Picture yourself standing tall, looking strong, breathing deeply, and saying one of your statements. Next time you get angry, try putting this into practice. In doing so you will help unhook yourself from angry thoughts and empower yourself with positive ones.
Positive Self-statements I Can Make in the Face of Anger
Try this with your children. Have them write down some positive self-statements they can make in the face of anger. Just like you did, have them picture an angry situation they were involved in and then have them imagine themselves taking a deep breath and replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones. Have them practice this mental exercise so they can apply it when the need arises.
Positive Self-statements My Child Can Make in the Face of Anger
3. Teach Your Child How to Cool off. Help your child list at least eight things she can do to feel better when she is upset or angry: getting a drink of water, walking out of the room, drawing, writing, listening music, physical exercise, talking to someone, throwing a ball. Have your child keep her cooling off list in a visible place she can refer to easily. Keep adding to the list.
(From Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids : Practical Ways to Create a Calm and Happy Home
Books for Children on Dealing with Anger
Moser, Adolph. Don't Rant and Rave on Wednesdays!: The Children's Anger-Control Book. Landmark Editions, 1994.
Children find out how to control anger and express feelings appropriately.(Grades K-6)
Naylor, Phyllis. King of the Playground. NY: Atheneum, 1991.
A little boy gets bullied and learns how to deal with the problem. (Grades K-2)
Simor, Norma. I Was so Mad! Albert Whitman, 1991.
A look at situations that make children angry including, sibling rivalry, annoyance with parents, school problems, and more. (Grades K-2)
Udry, Janice May. Let's Be Enemies. New York: Harper Collins, 191.
When John sees James as bossy, he decides that they are enemies. They eventually become friends again. (K-2)
Meg Cox, author of The Heart of a Family puts out a really nice e-newsletter where she gives monthly suggestions for rituals you can do with your children. I got some great ideas from Meg Im going to try with my family. If youd like to subscribe or receive a sample copy you can e-mail her at:
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Naomi Drew is the author of three books, all available through Amazon.com:
Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids (Kensington Publishers)
Learning the Skills of Peacemaking (Jalmar Press)
The Peaceful Classroom in Action (Jalmar Press)
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Copyright Naomi Drew, August, 2001 All Rights Reserved.
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Love and Peace to All of You.