� 2000 Jordan Institute for Families
Vol. 3, No. 2 July 1998
Five Steps of Anger Management
Below is an approach to anger management used by Dr. Kim Masters, of Charter Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. If you work with angry youth, you may want to learn these steps and integrate them into your practice.
Admit that you are angry, to yourself and/or to someone else.
Believe you can control your anger. Tell yourself that you can!
Calm down. Control your emotions. Take some time for yourself, breath deeply, count to ten, cry...do whatever works for you.
Decide how to solve the problem. This step only works once you are calm. Figure out what you need, and what's fair.
Express yourself assertively. Ask for what you need. Speak calmly, without yelling, and people will listen to you.
Masters, K. (1992). The angry child: Paper tiger or sleeping giant? Santa Monica, CA: Psychiatric Hospital Division of National Medical Enterprises, Inc.
� 1998 Jordan Institute for Families
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Performance Strategies: Five Steps to Managing Anger
Anger is a normal emotion that everyone experiences so it’s bound to make its way into your relationships. Disagreements can easily erupt into arguments when emotions are high. However, if anger is left unchecked it can be destructive to you and your loved ones. Try these five steps for managing anger in your relationships to have healthier arguments: (1) check the anger beast; (2) when overwhelmed, take a break; (3) arm yourself with tools to zap anger; (4) when calm, re-engage; and (5) rebound from arguments. Anger can sometimes be related to PTSD, so if your or your loved one’s anger seems to be causing significant difficulties, check in with a professional for support.
Check the anger beast
Anger can rear its head in relationships when one person is feeling hurt, sad, or disrespected. Anger is a natural response , so feeling angry is not a bad thing. Problems occur, however, when anger is paired with aggression (harmful physical action) or hostility (verbal or mental). In addition, if anger is met with anger, it can quickly explode into an argument (often with characteristics such as criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and ignoring). In addition to getting rid of negative interactions, a great way to check your anger is to think of your emotions as temperatures on a thermometer, when your anger rises, the thermometer reads higher. At any “temperature” on the thermometer you can step in and do something different to pause your anger from rising further or, ideally, reduce your anger .
When overwhelmed, take a break
Conflict between two people can create a physical stress reaction in your body coupled with a flood of negative emotions. When you become emotionally overwhelmed, you may get sweaty palms, increased heart rate, and shallow breathing. It’s called “emotional flooding.” During this, you can’t think clearly or take in new information. Your best bet is to take a break for at least 20 minutes. During the break, don’t plan for your next frontal attack! Instead, actively calm down. (See step #3.)
Arm yourself with tools to zap anger
There are many strategies to help you reduce your anger and actively calm down. They include things as simple as removing yourself from the situation to exercising and/or mind-body skills such as deep breathing , progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation. Cognitive strategies—such as being aware of your anger, identifying your anger triggers (such as specific events or situations that spark your anger), changing how you view a situation (often called "reframing" ), and/or thinking positive thoughts (about yourself, something else, or your partner)—can also be very useful. Try different approaches to figure out what strategies work best for you .
When calm, re-engage
Being calm is a mind-and-body thing. Notice if your thoughts are calming down, if you are able to think of other things other than just the argument, if your body temperature decreases, if your heart rate slows down, or if you fidget less (we tend to move more when we are upset). Once you are calm (physically and mentally), then you can re-engage.
After you take a break and calm down, it’s essential that you continue to discuss the issue. This helps facilitate problem solving or at least a better understanding of each person’s perspective. Don’t use the break as a way to get out of the conversation and then let it fester until it comes up again. It’s best if you ask for a break and give a specific timeframe for when you’ll be back (for example, “I need 30 minutes to calm down, and I’ll be back at 4pm”).
Rebound from arguments
Finally, it’s important to rebound from an argument and interact with the other person in a positive way afterwards. Couples who display fewer negative emotions (such as anger, disgust, and contempt) in conversations after an argument are much more likely to be together years later. Indeed, the majority of couples who are dissatisfied with their relationship report they can’t bounce back after arguments. Therefore, try to clear the air as much as possible after a conflict or argument, and learn from past disagreements .
Published on : January 25, 2017
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What are five strategies to control your anger?
Anger is a powerful emotion that can feel overwhelming. Learning how to effectively control and manage anger is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships and overall wellbeing. In this article, we will explore five strategies to help you gain control when you’re experiencing anger.
1. Recognise the triggers
The first step in controlling anger is to identify the triggers that lead to it. Reflect on past experiences and situations that have caused you to feel angry. It could be certain people, specific events or even internal thoughts or beliefs. By recognising your triggers, you can anticipate and better prepare yourself for situations that may provoke anger.
2. Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques
Deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques are powerful tools to help calm your body and mind when anger arises. When you feel anger building up, take slow, deep breaths, focusing on each breath in and out. You can also incorporate techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or guided imagery to help you relax.
3. Develop effective communication skills
Effective communication plays a vital role in anger management. Learning to express your feelings and needs assertively, while also actively listening to others, can prevent misunderstandings and defuse tension. Enhancing your communication skills allows you to express your anger in a constructive and respectful manner, promoting better understanding and resolution.
4. Utilise problem-solving techniques
Anger often arises when you’re faced with challenging situations or conflicts. By developing problem-solving skills, you can approach these situations with a calm and rational mindset. Identify the problem, brainstorm potential solutions, and consider the consequences of each option. Implementing effective problem-solving techniques helps address the underlying issues that trigger anger and can lead to more positive outcomes.
5. Seek support and professional help
Managing anger can be a challenging process. It can be hard to approach this alone and it’s important to reach out for support when you need it. Talk to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist who can provide guidance and a listening ear. They can offer valuable insights and techniques specific to your situation. Additionally, anger management programs or counselling can provide structured support and help you develop personalised coping strategies.
If you’d like to learn more about healthy ways to express anger, be sure to read our previous article on “What are four healthy ways to express anger?” Learn four effective ways to express anger constructively and maintain positive relationships.
To gain a better understanding of anger’s underlying causes, explore our article on the four root causes of anger. Discover how these root causes contribute to anger and strategies to address them effectively.
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Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper
Keeping your temper in check can be challenging. Use simple anger management tips — from taking a timeout to using "I" statements — to stay in control.
Do you fume when someone cuts you off in traffic? Does your blood pressure rocket when your child refuses to cooperate? Anger is a common and even healthy emotion. But it's important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both your health and your relationships.
Ready to get your anger under control? Start by considering these 10 anger management tips.
1. Think before you speak
In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say something you'll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything. Also allow others involved in the situation to do the same.
2. Once you're calm, express your concerns
As soon as you're thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.
3. Get some exercise
Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run. Or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.
4. Take a timeout
Timeouts aren't just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what's ahead without getting irritated or angry.
5. Identify possible solutions
Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child's messy room make you upset? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening. Or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Also, understand that some things are simply out of your control. Try to be realistic about what you can and cannot change. Remind yourself that anger won't fix anything and might only make it worse.
6. Stick with 'I' statements
Criticizing or placing blame might only increase tension. Instead, use "I" statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, "I'm upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes" instead of "You never do any housework."
7. Don't hold a grudge
Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. Forgiving someone who angered you might help you both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.
8. Use humor to release tension
Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what's making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.
9. Practice relaxation skills
When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as "Take it easy." You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.
10. Know when to seek help
Learning to control anger can be a challenge at times. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.
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- Kassinove H, et al. Happiness. In: The Practitioner's Guide to Anger Management: Customizable Interventions, Treatments, and Tools for Clients With Problem Anger. Kindle edition. New Harbinger Publications; 2019. Accessed March 11, 2022.
- Understanding anger: How psychologists help with anger problems. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/understanding. Accessed March 11, 2022.
- Controlling anger before it controls you. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control. Accessed March 11, 2022.
- Tips for survivors: Coping with anger after a disaster or other traumatic event. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://store.samhsa.gov/product/tips-survivors-coping-anger-after-disaster-or-other-traumatic-event/pep19-01-01-002. Accessed March 11, 2022.
- Caring for your mental health. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health. Accessed March 11, 2022.
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5 Ways to Teach Your Child Anger Management Skills
- Feelings vs. Behavior
- Role Modeling
- Establishing Rules
- Teaching Coping Skills
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. But many kids struggle to understand the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behavior. Frustration and anger can quickly turn into defiance, disrespect, aggression, and temper tantrums when kids don't know how to deal with their emotions.
When left unchecked, childhood aggression such as fighting, arguing, yelling, spitting , and teasing can lead to additional issues. For instance, anger and aggression have been linked to academic problems, peer rejections, and poor mental health in adulthood. For kids who have trouble taming their tempers, use these five strategies to teach anger management skills.
How to Teach Your Child to Control Anger
- Distinguish between emotions and actions
- Model anger management skills
- Set rules for handling anger
- Teach healthy coping skills
- Use consequences
Differentiate Between Feelings and Behavior
Teach kids to label their feelings , so they can verbalize feelings of anger, frustration, and disappointment. Try saying, "It's OK to feel angry but it's not OK to hit." Help them see that they're in control of their actions when they feel angry.
Sometimes, aggressive behavior stems from a variety of uncomfortable feelings, like sadness or embarrassment. So, help your kids explore why they are feeling angry. Maybe they feel sad about a playdate being canceled, but they respond in anger because it's easier or it masks the hurt they're feeling.
Talking about feelings often and over time helps kids learn to recognize their feelings better.
Model Appropriate Anger Management Skills
The best way to teach children how to deal with anger is by showing them how you deal with your emotions when you feel angry. When kids watch you lose your temper, they'll likely do the same. But, if they see you cope with your feelings in a kinder, gentler way, they'll pick up on that, too.
Although it’s important to shield your children from most adult problems, it's healthy to show them how you handle angry feelings. Point out times when you feel frustrated so your child understands that adults get mad sometimes too.
It's OK to say, “I'm angry that the car in front of us didn’t stop to let those kids cross the street. But I’m going to stop so they can cross safely.” Verbalizing your feelings will teach children to talk about their emotions.
Also, take responsibility for your behavior when you lose your cool in front of your kids. Apologize and discuss what you should have done instead. Say, “I am sorry that you had to see me yelling today when I was mad. I should have gone for a walk to cool off when I was angry instead of raising my voice.”
Establish Anger Rules
Most families have unofficial family rules about what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to anger. Some families don’t mind doors being slammed and voices being raised while other families have less tolerance for such behaviors. Create written household rules that outline your expectations.
Anger rules should center around behaving respectfully toward others.
Address areas such as physical aggression , name-calling , and destruction of property so that your children understand they can't throw things, break things, or lash out verbally or physically when they're mad.
Teach Healthy Coping Skills
Kids need to know appropriate ways to deal with their anger. Instead of being told, “Don’t hit your brother,” explain what they can do when they feel frustrated. Say, "Next time, use your words" or "Walk away from him when you feel angry."
You also can ask, "What could you do instead of hitting ?" to help your child identify strategies that might be helpful. You also could create a calm down kit that can be used when they're upset.
Fill a box with items that can help them calm down, such as a coloring book and crayons, lotion that smells good, or soothing music. Engaging their senses can help calm their mind and body.
Use time-out as a tool to help your child calm down. Teach them that they can take a time-out before they get into trouble. Removing themselves from a situation and taking a few minutes to calm down can be really helpful for kids prone to anger.
Also, teach problem-solving skills so children learn to recognize that they can solve problems without resorting to aggression. Talk about ways to resolve conflict peacefully.
Offer Consequences When Necessary
Give your children positive consequences when they follow the anger rules and negative consequences when they break the rules. Positive consequences, such as a reward system or token economy system , can motivate a child to use anger management skills when they're upset.
Follow through with immediate consequences if your child becomes aggressive. Effective consequences may include time-outs, loss of privileges , or paying restitution by doing extra chores or loaning a toy to the target of their aggression.
A Word From Verywell
It’s normal for kids to struggle to manage their anger at times. But, with your guidance, your child's skills should improve. When kids struggle to get their anger under control, or their anger problems seem to be getting worse, it's important to seek professional help. A trained professional can rule out any underlying mental health problems and can offer assistance in creating a behavior management plan.
Sukhodolsky DG, Smith SD, McCauley SA, Ibrahim K, Piasecka JB. Behavioral interventions for anger, irritability, and aggression in children and adolescents . J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol . 2016;26(1):58-64. doi:10.1089/cap.2015.0120
Vuoksimaa E, Rose RJ, Pulkkinen L, et al. Higher aggression is related to poorer academic performance in compulsory education . J Child Psychol Psychiatr . 2021;62(3):327-338. doi:10.1111/jcpp.13273
Lök N, Bademli K, Canbaz M. The effects of anger management education on adolescents' manner of displaying anger and self-esteem: A randomized controlled trial . Arch Psychiatr Nurs . 2018;32(1):75-81. doi:10.1016/j.apnu.2017.10.010
Donaldson JM, Vollmer TR. An evaluation and comparison of time-out procedures with and without release contingencies . J Appl Behav Anal . 2011;44(4):693-705. doi:10.1901/jaba.2011.44-693
Colasante T, Zuffianò A, Malti T. Do moral emotions buffer the anger-aggression link in children and adolescents? . Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology . 2015;41:1-7. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2015.06.001
By Amy Morin, LCSW Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.
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