Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review: How to be Angry

Anger is a normal emotion that we all experience from time to time. Most adults have learned ways to deal with anger and not have it cause problems for their lives or relationships. Children and teens, however, have less life experience to know how to deal with anger in a way that is healthy. Social worker and author Signe Whitson sets out to help children learn how to deal with anger in her book How to be Angry.

The book outlines a group session-based curriculum for ages 5-18. The curriculum can be adapted based on the ages and needs of the group. The book consists of three main parts:

Part 1 focuses on the “behind the scenes” of anger. Why people get angry, different expressions of anger, and the role of body language.

Part 2 is the main part of the book and focuses on assertive expression. This section also includes techniques for dealing with bullies and how to assertively turn down requests.

Part 3 is a kind of a review of tactics/skills discussed in the sessions and how to keep them up over time.

After reading through the book, I can see why such a curriculum is needed and very useful among children of varying ages. One of the main messages of the book is to help kids learn to express angry emotions in a way that is assertive but without losing control of their temper. This is a lesson that even many adults have not mastered, so I can see the benefit of learning this early in life. Most of the exercises in the book are practical and based on real-life scenarios. Many of the exercises are meant to help kids identify assertive versus aggressive forms of communication. Then they can use this skill to establish a habit of responding on assertive ways that are appropriate to a given situation.

Another very important aspect of the book and curriculum is the section on bullying. As we have all seen an increasing number of stories of bullying come across the news, we know this has become a serious problem in our country. The assertiveness skills learned in the How to be Angry curriculum sets the stage for helping kids stand up for themselves. In particular, the section on bullying goes into more depth about how bullies operate, why they bully, and how kids can be assertive to stand up for themselves and hopefully combat bullying.

Overall, I thought the information offered in How to be Angry was a useful approach to teach kids about how to manage anger and be assertive without being aggressive. Although the curriculum is provided for kids starting as young as age 5, I think the instructor would have to modify some of the exercises quite a bit for children this young. Many of the exercises (as currently written) involve several steps and vocabulary that might be too advanced for children in the younger end of this age range.

Although this book is written as a curriculum to be implemented in a group setting, I do think that parents could read this book on their own and learn some helpful strategies for helping their children deal with anger, avoid bullies, and be assertive.


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