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Archive for October, 2014

Teach Children to Overcome Their Anger.
With the help of a few techniques, your child’s anger may be eliminated.

Eight -year-old Peter has had a problem with his anger since he was a toddler. Anytime something doesn’t go his way, he turns ugly. The most recent incident was when his mother went to pick him up from his friend’s house. Peter refused to stop playing with his friend and get his coat on. When his mother tried to take his arm, pull him off the floor, and help put his coat on, Peter starting kicking his mother and screaming, “I hate you. I’m not going home with you.” Twenty minutes later Peter’s exasperated, embarrassed mother was able to extricate Peter from his friend’s house.

Bea is 13 and also has an anger problem. When told to do a chore such as empty the dishwasher or watch her younger sister, she will answer, “I’m not doing it.” When her mother tells her she’s a member of the family and she needs to help out, she often comes back with, “Who cares? You can’t make me.” The last time her mother said, “You’re right, I can’t make you clean out the dishwasher, but you’re grounded this weekend,” Bea marched over to the refrigerator, opened the door, and started throwing everything out on the floor.

Both Peter’s and Bea’s parents reported that their children have never had a problem with anger at school, and, in fact, are well-behaved there. This is helpful for me to know as a therapist. Armed with this information, I explained to both sets of parents that Peter and Bea have the ability to control their anger. How do I know? Because they do so at school. What they must now learn is to control their anger at home.

Things I suggest for anger control:

Have a family counsel. Tell your child that anger is an okay feeling, but using anger inappropriately by yelling, screaming, belligerent acts, or mean-spirited behavior can no longer be accepted. Ask your child for his cooperation in controlling his anger. Also remind your child that you expect him to control his anger at home just as he controls it at school. If you, the parent, have a problem with controlling your anger, chances are your child will point this out at the family pow-wow. Agree with the confrontation and decide that you, too, will work to control your anger.

Writing down how one feels stepped on and abused is often helpful in dissipating feelings. Ask your child to write down why she feels angry. Reassure her that within a half hour of her putting pen to paper, you will read what she has written and write back your response.

Another technique: Ask your child not to allow himself to explode when he feels angry. When he feels anger coming on, tell him to purse his lips tight, set the timer on the stove for four minutes, and breathe deeply until the timer goes off. Once he’s controlled himself for four minutes, he’s won the battle.

A similar technique is to suggest to your child that when he feels himself getting angry, he rush to a chair, sit down, close his eyes, and see himself playing on the playground at school or swimming in a pool. This is called imaging. It helps the mind to calm the body and dissipate the adrenaline that accompanies angry feelings. Suggest that when your child feels furious, instead of gritting his teeth and doing something mean, he should try to sing his favorite song in his head or repeat a favorite joke to himself. I told one little boy this, and he looked at me like I was nuts. But the next time I saw him, he couldn’t wait to report that it had worked.

Invite your child to say over and over in her head during the day for the next several months, “I choose not to get angry.” Repeating this affirmation reinforces the decision not to become angry.

Just as children need help learning to tie their shoes, write a report, iron a shirt, or throw a ball, they need help learning to control their anger. Take the time to give your children this skill– a skill that will serve them the rest of their life.

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When you let little irritations become a big issue, best rethink how to deal with them.

Some years back a woman came to me because of her mother-in-law. She and her husband had been married for four years and had two small babies. The problem was that when her mother-in-law came for a visit, she would go through her daughter-in-law’s dresser drawers and medicine cabinet.

When the woman talked with her husband about what to do, he had shrugged and said his mom was just nosy and because his wife had nothing to hide, what did it matter?

Instead of confronting the mother-in-law head on, the wife had a lock put on her bedroom door. When the mother-in-law came over on Sundays, as she often did, the wife would simply lock the door.

Recently this daughter-in-law contacted me to help her deal with one of her teenaged daughters. During the session I asked, “Whatever happened with you and your mother-in-law, who used to rummage through your drawers?” The woman was surprised I remembered. I said her story was a bit unusual. She laughed, shrugged, and said everything was fine. Over the years her mother- in-law turned out to be a big help to the family, and as far as she knew, she had stopped going through the woman’s dresser drawers. In fact, she hadn’t used the lock in years.

Several hours later I got a telephone call from a friend who had a question. Apparently his friend is ready to give up a job he likes because of the engineer in the next cubicle. It seems that this engineer has a rather tumultuous relationship with his wife and argues on and off with her throughout the day. This same engineer kicks his wastecan rhythmically all day long. His fights and repetitive tapping are so irritating that my friend’s friend is seriously thinking about throwing in the towel.

My friend wanted to know if I had any solutions besides talking to the man, who was impossible to talk to, and going to his boss, who would think the problem petty.

I said I thought the friend had gotten himself sensitized to the man’s noises and he was attending to them instead of ignoring them. What he could do was to decide to focus on his work and learn to ignore the man in the next cubicle. It would take about six weeks of determined concentration, but it was possible.

Another option was for him to buy a white noise machine or humming fan which would help dull the racket. A third option would be to get some ear buds and start listening to music as he worked.

My friend thanked me for the advice and said he’d pass it on.

The session with the woman followed by my friend’s telephone call got me to thinking. There are so many nuisance problems that come into our lives. Instead of making a big deal out of a problem and rushing to confront someone, often an adjustment in our own behavior would solve the problem.

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Issues in your relationship do have solutions. Some problems are easier to deal with than others.
What do you do if…

Here are some questions people recently asked me when I gave a talk on marriage.

What do you do when your mate takes a pot-shot at you in public?

The best way to handle this very typical marital problem is to ignore the pot-shot. Pretend you didn’t hear it. In reality, everyone in the room heard it and I guarantee most everyone in the room thinks the guy is rude and “a borderline jerk.”

If you respond by defending or shooting an arrow back, you both look bad, and your mate will probably retaliate. After all, he didn’t have the sense or sensibility to keep his mouth shut in the first place.

The following day, tell your mate you were uncomfortable when he made the remark and ask that he not do this in the future. Some mates will apologize. Others will defend and point out how what they said was correct. If you get a defensive response, again state that you prefer that your mate not put you down in public. Amen. Period. No further discussion.

What do you do if your mate always runs late?

You, on the other hand, were taught to be on time and feel very anxious when you run late. You’ve asked your mate repeatedly to respect your wishes. She says okay but continues to be late.

First, assess if your mate is always late. Is she late for everything — church, weddings, movies, meeting friends at a restaurant, doctor’s appointments? Some people are on time for certain events but give themselves more latitude for others. If this is your mate, discuss what events you categorize as most important to be on time for and those where you would be willing to go along with your spouse’s more laid back timeframe.

Sometimes, too, one spouse will define lateness differently than another. If you are to be somewhere at 4 o’clock, do you consider yourself late if you are there at exactly 4 o’clock? Are you late if your clock says two minutes after four? I’ve seen discussions like this clear the air and give both spouses a better understanding of the way each of them views time.

In the worst case scenario, that is, your mate is late for every occasion, including weddings and the symphony — do yourself and your heart a favor. Take separate cars. It may not be ideal, but it will keep you from starting every event with a hostile attitude and feelings of helplessness.

What do you do if your mate drinks too much when you go out socially and he denies drinking excessively?

No matter how many discussions you’ve had, you can’t get him to admit he has a problem, nor can you get him to change.

Sometimes asking a friend to talk with your mate will have more impact than if you speak to him. Sometimes asking a mate to read a particular article or book on drinking will have the desired effect. Sometimes dragging your mate to a therapist and discussing his drinking will make the difference.

In addition, don’t drive home with a mate who has had too much to drink. Make a pact that you will always drive home from a party or social event. This keeps you from guessing how sober your mate is. It also keeps you from arguing at a time when he’s been drinking. You may not be able to get your mate to change his drinking habits, but you can protect yourself and the other people on the road.

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