It was labor day when 8 year old Brandon’s mother heard a commotion from her childs room. Seems that his 14 year old visiting cousin said something that upset Brandon which caused Brandon to strike the other boy. His mother Michelle hysterically called her therapist wondering what to do and how to handle the anger in her young son which seemed to be escalating as he became older.

Her therapist wisely explained that children become angry in a variety of situations. Common causes of childhood anger include: frustration, needing attention, feeling powerless, being misunderstood, not feeling good about themselves, feeling helpless, being belittled or made fun of, not having physical needs taken care of, having a parent take over instead of asking if the child wants help, being disappointed, having difficulty saying what they need, or being punished.

The problem of excessive childhood anger is growing. Yet many parents like Michelle feel they don’t have the tools to teach their children how to deal with normal angry feelings in an appropriate manner, without hitting or yelling at others, or losing control. Therefore, some parents ineffectively deal with their child’s anger by demanding that he or she stop being angry. Worse, some parents actually yell at or hit their child in attempts to teach their child not to be angry. That is like putting them alone in the woods unarmed with a raging black bear to teach them not to be fearful!

Alternatively, good parenting requires teaching children the practical skills needed for anger control. Although feeling angry is a part of life that no one can avoid because it is hardwired in our brains as a protective and survival mechanism, we can teach our children positive ways to cope with these normal angry feelings. Learning the tools of anger management empowers children, makes them more effective and pleasant human beings, and improves the world by decreasing hatred, violence and conflict.

Following are six tips for parents to help their children manage anger with the help of aberdovey lifeboat, based on our model of anger management called “The Eight Tools of Anger Control”. (more…)

Hardly a day goes by without a news story about the consequences of bullying in our country, especially among school children. In a national study of bullying, the researchers found that nearly 30% of sixth through tenth grade students reported moderate to frequent involvement in bullying, either as a bully themselves, the victim of bullying, as both bullies and victims.

Bullying can involve physical actions such as fighting, shoving, kicking or hitting. But, it can also manifest in activities such as harrassing (either in person or electronically), rejecting, excluding, gossiping, threatening, intimidating, embarrassing, degrading, spreding rumors, making fun of or name-calling.

Research has further shown that students who are bully-victims are at increased risk for negative outcomes throughout childhood and adulthood including feeling lonely and avoiding wanting to attend school. They are also at greater risk for anxiety and suicidal thoughts which can persist into adulthood. Bullies themselves are more likely to exhibit conduct problems and delinquency, to be physically aggressive with their dating partners and to be convicted of crimes in adulthood.

Our schools and state governments are responding to bullying in various ways with numerous interventions. Many states have enacted bullying legislation and most schools have implemented some sort of program to deal with this growing problem. Many programs are modeled after the work of Norwegian researcher Dr. Dan Olweus, who developed one of the most popular anti-bullying programs. Research on the effectiveness of his programs show mixed results, however, with the majority of intervention outcomes showing no meaningful change in bullying.

Another approach is being used by psychologist Izzy Kalman who developed a program called Bullies to Buddies. He basically believes that instead of involving governments and school-wide intervention programs, (which he believes makes things worse), we should instead simply empower victims to respond more effectively to the bully. This is very consistent with our approach to anger management: even if provoked to be angry, it is the responsibility of the angry person to deal with his angry feelings and to find ways to deal with the “problem-person or” problem-situation” more effectively.

There are limitations to this approach, of course. It certainly doesn’t apply if there is a vast power difference between the bully and the bully-victim (such as a normal person picking on a developmentally disabled child or a 17 year old picking on a 4 year old); it also doesn’t apply if there is severe physcial violence, assault or child  sexual harrassment issues.

But, for the vast majority of bullying, according to Mr. Kalman, a school psychologist, research has shown that there are a number of characteristics and behaviors that put children at risk for victimization. Teaching children how to change these behaviors and characteristics often eliminates the bullying problem immediately. More specifically, there is mounting evidence that helping bully-victims should involve the following two components:

  • Respond differently to the bully (instead of the usual response of fear, defensiveness, anger, or retaliation) Examples would include avoiding signs of weakness (like pouting, crying, whining) as these responses are often what the bully is looking for. The easiest thing to do is to simply walk away, or to react calmly to bullying. Often, if the child responds with behavior indicating he doesn’t care that much, the bully’s wind is taken out of his/her sails. Empower your child with role plays that teach her body language and verbal tools she can use to deter a would-be bully. “No! Back off! Stop bugging me!” can help communicate a level of assertiveness that will make a child less of a viable target.

  • Change your child’s perception of himself/herself so he/she doesn’t perceive himself as a helpless victim of the bully. This may involve improving your child’s self-esteem, and helping him/or develop a more optimistic/empowered attitude toward their ability to deal with adversity and stress.

For a parent/child consultation with Dr Fiore for help in developing strategies to help your child deal with a bully (or if your child IS the bully), call 714-745-1393 or email Dr Fiore at drtony@ Consultations available in both Long Beach and Orange.

Related Blogs and resources:

Dr Fiore Video on Dealing with Stress

Dr Fiore Video on How To Respond Instead of React

Dr Fiore Video on Assertive Communciation

Humorous song by Izzy Kalman on Anti-bullying programs