teenage friends demands but agree to discuss the issues calmly. Ignore the
teenager's foul-mouth but invite a rational discussion. Or, you might try
punishing the anger but this is tricky because your punishment models
aggression (thus, taking away their privileges or your services to them would
be a better punishment). In most cases, strong retaliation against an
aggressive person is the worst thing you can do (Kimble, Fitz, & Onorad,
1977). Nastiness begets nastiness. Hostility escalates. Baron (1977) says
punishment might work under certain conditions: (a) if you can punish almost
every time, (b) punish immediately, (c) punish in socially acceptable ways,
and (d) do not punish harshly or become overly angry. Threats of punishment
may also work. Remember punishment is only effective while the punisher is
observing--watch out for subtle rebellion.
If you can divert the angry person's attention to some meaningful task or
to cartoons or TV or a calm discussion of the situation, the anger should
subside. Also, offer him/her any information that would explain the situation
that upsets him/her (Zillmann, 1979). Point out similarities or common
interests between him/her and the person they are mad at (you). Let him/her
see or hear about calm, rational ways of resolving differences. Almost
anything that gets him/her thinking about something else will help. Baron
(1977) distracted irate male motorists (blocked by a stalled car) with a female
pedestrian on crutches, in a clown outfit, or dressed scantily. All three
drastically reduced the cussing, gestures, and horn blowing.
The Institute of Mental Health Initiatives (202-364-7111) provide a brief
list of ways to calm an angry person: reduce the noise level, keep calm
yourself, acknowledge that the irate person has been wronged (if true) or, at
least, acknowledge their feelings without any judgment, ask them to explain
their situation (so you can tactfully correct errors), listen to their complaints
without counter-attacking, explain your feelings with non-blaming "I"
statements, show that you care but set limits on violence ("I'd like to work it
out with you but I'll have to call the police if you can't control yourself").
The angry child or violent teen
Several books describe the development and treatment of the aggressive,
acting out child (Whitehouse & Pudney, 1996--highly recommended by
psychologists; Riley, D. (2002); Kindlon & Thompson, 2000;Garbarino, 2000;
Parens, 1987, 1993; Crowell, Evans, & O'Donnell, 1987; Feindler & Ecton,
1986; Bartocci, 1985). Eastman (1993) helps parents deal with a child's
"sulks and storms." Paul (1995) helps us understand that a child's anger is a
normal way of saying "I need something."
Several games, books, and programs for controlling a child's anger are
available from Childswork/Childsplay, The Center for Applied Psychology, Inc.,
P.O. Box 61586, King of Prussia, PA 19406. Fighting among siblings is
natural, so how can you tell when it becomes excessive? See Ames, 1982.
Research Press in Champaign, IL have books and videos for controlling
aggression in the class room. Vivian Tamburello at the John Hopkins
Counseling Center in Baltimore have a self-control program for adults and
children. Aggressive children can be taught to tolerate frustration and to