Notice that this is not the same as saying, "Mom's so unfair to me." That statement doesn't identify the specific problem (that you can't go to the party until you clean your room) and it doesn't say how you're feeling (angry).
2) Think of potential solutions before responding (self-control). This is where you stop for a minute to give yourself time to manage your anger. It's also where you start thinking of how you might react — but without reacting yet.
Ask yourself: What can I do? Think of at least three things. For example, in this situation you might think:
(a) I could yell at Mom and throw a fit.
(b) I could clean my room and then ask if I could go to the party.
(c) I could sneak out to the party anyway.
3) Consider the consequences of each solution (think it through). This is where you think about what is likely to result from each of the different reactions you came up with.
Ask yourself: What will happen for each one of these options? For example:
(a) Yelling at your mom may get you in worse trouble or even grounded.
(b) Cleaning your room takes work and you may get to the party late (but maybe that adds to your mystique). With this option, you get to go to the party and your room's clean so you don't have to worry about it for a while.
(c) Sneaking out may seem like a real option in the heat of anger. But when you really think it through, it's pretty unlikely you'd get away with being gone for hours with no one noticing. And when you do get caught — look out!
4) Make a decision (pick one of your options). This is where you take action by choosing one of the three things you could do. Look at the list and pick the one that is likely to be most effective.
Ask yourself: What's my best choice? By the time you've thought it through, you're probably past yelling at your mom, which is a knee-jerk response. You may have also decided that sneaking out is too risky. Neither of these options is likely to get you to the party. So option (b) probably seems like the best choice.
Once you choose your solution, then it's time to act.
5) Check your progress. After you've acted and the situation is over, spend some time thinking about how it went.
Ask yourself: How did I do? Did things work out as I expected? If not, why not? Am I satisfied with the choice I made? Taking some time to reflect on how things worked out after it's all over is a very important step. It helps you learn about yourself and it allows you to test which problem-solving approaches work best in different situations.
Give yourself a pat on the back if the solution you chose worked out well. If it didn't, go back through the five steps and see if you can figure out why.
These five steps are pretty simple when you're calm, but are much tougher to work through when you're angry or sad (kind of like in basketball practice when making baskets is much easier than in a real game when the pressure is on!). So it helps to practice over and over again.
Other Ways to Manage Anger
The five-step approach is good when you're in a particular situation that's got you mad and you need to decide what action to take. But other things can help you manage anger too.
Try these things even if you're not mad right now to help prevent angry feelings from building up inside.
- Exercise. Go for a walk/run, work out, or go play a sport. Lots of research has shown that exercise is a great way to improve your mood and decrease negative feelings.
- Listen to music (with your headphones on). Music has also been shown to change a person's mood pretty quickly. And if you dance, then you're exercising and it's a two-for-one.
- Write down your thoughts and emotions. You can write things in lots of ways; for example, in a journal or as your own poetry or song lyrics. After you've written it down, you can keep it or throw it away — it doesn't matter. The important thing is, writing down your thoughts and feelings can improve how you feel. When you notice, label, and release feelings as they show up in smaller portions, they don't have a chance to build up inside.
- Draw. Scribbling, doodling, or sketching your thoughts or feelings might help too.
- Meditate or practice deep breathing. This one works best if you do it regularly, as it's more of an overall stress management technique that can help you use self-control when you're mad. If you do this regularly, you'll find that anger is less likely to build up.
- Talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Lots of times there are other emotions, such as fear or sadness, beneath anger. Talking about them can help.
- Distract yourself. If you find yourself stewing about something and just can't seem to let go, it can help to do something that will get your mind past what's bugging you — watch TV, read, or go to the movies.
These ideas can be helpful for two reasons:
1. They help you cool down when you feel like your anger might explode. When you need to cool down, do one or more of the activities in the list above. Think of these as alternatives to taking an action you'll regret, such as yelling at someone. Some of them, like writing down feelings, can help you release tension and begin the thinking process at the same time.
2. They help you manage anger in general. What if there's no immediate problem to solve — you simply need to shift into a better mood. Sometimes when you're angry, you just need to stop dwelling on how mad you are.
Sometimes anger is a sign that more is going on. People who have frequent trouble with anger, who get in fights or arguments, who get punished, who have life situations that give them reason to often be angry may need special help to get a problem with anger under control.
Tell your parents, a teacher, a counselor, or another adult you trust if any of these things have been happening:
- You have a lasting feeling of anger over things that have either happened to you in the past or are going on now.
- You feel irritable, grumpy, or in a bad mood more often than not.
- You feel consistent anger or rage at yourself.
- You feel anger that lasts for days or makes you want to hurt yourself or someone else.
- You're often getting into fights or arguments.
These could be signs of depression or something else — and you shouldn't have to handle that alone.
Anger is a strong emotion. It can feel overwhelming at times. Learning how to deal with strong emotions — without losing control — is part of becoming more mature. It takes a little effort, a little practice, and a little patience, but you can get there if you want to.