One of the most common problems in children with behavioral issues is the anger they experience. Behaviorally disordered children may get angry much easier and quicker than their peers. Therapists working with children are in need of interventions that can help a child to think before he acts.
One of the interventions Dr. Tony Sheppard (2012) recommends is the concept of the Anger Rules. The Anger Rules involves a child making a decision regarding his anger or looking at how he handled his anger after the fact. The Anger Rules offer a very simple set of guidelines for checking ourselves when faced with a difficult situation. This concept is discussed in the anger workbook, A Volcano in My Tummy, by Elaine Whitehouse and Warwick Pudney. This workbook teaches there are two general categories of responses to anger: clean and dirty. Clean anger is the type that obeys all of the Anger Rules while dirty anger violates one or more of the Anger Rules. This concept offers a very simple way for the child to check himself with how he has managed his anger. An example involves a lunch line situation in which a child throws a lunch tray at the wall. By using the Anger Rules checklist, the child asks, “Did I hurt others? No. Did I hurt myself? No. Did I hurt property? Yes.” Therefore, throwing a tray at the wall was, in fact, dirty anger.
Now if the child thinks before he acts, his anger is rising to the top of the Anger Thermometer because the child behind him is standing too close and bumping into him. The child thinks to himself, “I need to get the teacher or I am going to hit this kid!” The Anger Rules asks: “Will this hurt others? No. Will it hurt me? No. Will it hurt property? No.” Getting the teacher for help before acting is an example of clean anger. Processing situations and looking at clean versus dirty anger can really help a child to think before he acts and figure out the best course of action for that particular situation.
Sheppard, T.L. (2012). Parent guide to the anger thermometer and the anger rules. Groupworks Inc.
Cindy A. Geil, M.A.
WKPIC Doctoral Intern