Dear Dish-It: I Have Anger Issues
OMG! I have the worst anger issues. I don’t like to admit it. I don’t wanna go to anger management because then I’ll have to admit it to a lot of people. What can I do?
The first thing to understand is that everyone gets angry – anger can even be a good thing. If you’re being treated unfairly, anger can help you stand up for yourself (without harming anyone else, of course). The hard part about anger is knowing what to do when you’re feeling it.
When you get angry, the goal is to calm yourself down and try to solve whatever problem is bothering you. This is hard for some kids (and adults, too). Instead of calming down, some kids might keep getting more and more upset until they explode like a volcano! Maybe this sounds familiar to you?
Some kids get angry more often or more easily than some other kids. Their anger might be so strong that the feeling gets out of control and causes them to act in ways that are unacceptable and hurtful. People might say kids like this have a temper, which is a term for acting all angry and out of control. When people say that someone has trouble controlling their temper, they usually mean that a kid behaves badly when feeling angry or frustrated.
Some kids might get so angry that they scream at their mom or dad, punch the wall, slam doors, break something, or, worse yet, hit a brother or sister. Kids are allowed to express their feelings, even angry ones, but it's not OK for a kid to do any of those things. Kids don't want to (or mean to) act this way, but sometimes angry feelings can be hard to manage. So what do you do if you're a volcano kind of a kid and your temper is getting you into trouble?
Train Your Temper
You can train your temper the same way you might train a puppy. Imagine your temper as a puppy inside you that needs some training. The puppy is not bad; it will probably turn out to be a great dog. It just needs to learn some rules because, right now, that puppy is causing some problems for you. Here are steps to take anytime, even when you're not angry:
- Get lots of physical activity: Play outside. Do sports you like. Any activity that gets your heart pumping can be good because it's a way of burning off energy and stress. It feels good to boot that soccer ball or smack that baseball!
- Talk to your mom or dad: If you're having trouble with your temper, the time to talk about it is before you have another angry outburst. Tell your parents that you're trying to do a better job of controlling yourself. Ask for their help and ideas for how you could do this better. Let them know that if you do get really angry, you're going to ask for their help.
- Put feelings into words: Get in the habit of saying what you're feeling and why. Using words might stop you from slamming the door, having a fit or doing something else that could get you in trouble. Using words helps people manage their strong feelings and behaviors.
- Take control: Decide that you're going to be in charge. Don't let those angry feelings make you do stuff you don't want to do.
The real test comes the next time you get so mad you could just explode. But don't explode. Put a leash on that puppy with these four steps:
- Take a break from the situation: If you're in an argument with someone, go to another part of your house. Just say, "I want to be alone for a while so I can calm down."
- Put yourself in a timeout: If you're feeling angry and think you need a timeout to calm down, don't wait for a parent to tell you: go ahead and take a timeout for yourself. Let your family know that they need to respect your space and leave you alone to calm yourself down. Use the time to count to five, stretch your arms and take a nice deep breath.
- Get the anger out: Instead of punching walls, do a bunch of jumping jacks or dance around to your favorite music? Run around or do cartwheels across the lawn. Or pick up your pen and write it all down. What made you so upset? Keep writing until you've covered everything. If you don't like writing, just draw a picture that helps you express your feelings.
- Learn to shift: You'll have to work hard to do this. The idea is to shift from a really angry mood to a more in-control mood. Sometimes, when people are angry, they're not really thinking clearly. Only angry thoughts are flying around their brains. But you can replace those thoughts with better ones. You can say, "I lost my temper, but I'm going to get myself under control now." Instead of thinking of the person or situation you're angry with, think of something else. Think of something that will put you in a better mood.