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A recent article by Scientific American reviews desperate attempts to change unruly teen behavior around. One of the toughest challenges is to reach an adolescent who is angry, defiant and acting out in destructive ways. Confrontational strategies and harsh punishment, the article explains, has only short-term benefits. No studies prove lasting results from this type of “scared straight” intervention. So what does work? The article ends with this summarization: 

results show that merely imposing harsh discipline on young offenders or frightening them is unlikely to help them refrain from problematic behavior. Instead teens must learn enduring tools—including better social skills, ways to communicate with parents and peers, and anger management techniques—that help them avoid future aggression. Several effective interventions do just that, including cognitive-behavior therapy, a method intended to change maladaptive thinking patterns and behaviors, and multisystemic therapy, in which parents, schools and communities develop programs to reinforce positive behaviors. Another well-supported method, aimed at improving behavior in at-risk children younger than eight years, is parent-child interaction therapy. Parents are coached by therapists in real time to respond to a child’s behavior in ways that strengthen the parent-child bond and provide incentives for cooperation [see “Behave!” by Ingrid Wickelgren; Scientific American Mind, March/April 2014].”

What can you do to strengthen your bond with your child? How can you reach his or her heart, locked behind a wall of pain and anger? Don’t expect overnight miracles. Turning your defiant teen around will require consistency and continual micro-shifts of change in you and your child. You will probably blow it on days and be exhausted from the effort on others. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on who the child will be and not on who they have been or what they are doing. Consequences are natural and necessary. Boundaries are even more important! Just don’t equate your love with positive behavior. Nothing your child does should make you love him or her any less and nothing can make you love them more. Love just is…

Anger Management: “Jump!”

by Ron Huxley, LMFT

Four frogs were sitting on a log and one decides to
jump. How many frogs are left? Still four. Deciding to jump does not
mean that the frog actually did jump. Managing our anger is often the
same. We decide to make a change in our attitudes and behaviors but
we never “get off the log.” The difference between the person who
succeeds in managing anger in their life and the one who doesn’t is
commitment. One must be committed to change if it is to become a
reality. There are no easy alternatives. Stopping the destructive
path of anger is hard work and takes courage and discipline. 

Today, write out a statement of commitment to
changing the role of anger in your life. Make it strong and make it
clear. It can be as long as you like but there can not be any
ambiguities in your language. No “maybes.” No “trying.” Just “doing.”
Oh, you will mess up and you will fall a few times but you have to go
back to your statement and do it again. How many times? As many times
as it takes until anger is your slave and not the other way around.

Dear ANGER Diary

by Ron Huxley, LMFT

Have you ever kept a diary? Maybe as a child you did. I still do although I am not as diligent with it as I used to be. Using a diary is a simple way to manage your anger. Anger triggers and solutions are very predictable. Unfortunately, we miss the clues to both of these anger management tips and continue to repeat the negative process of outburst and tantrums.

Every day for two weeks, write in a diary using this four step anger management process:

1. List what made you angry.
2. List how angry it made you feel on a scale from 1 to 10, one being cool and calm and 10 being a major rage.
3. Put a plus sign (+) down if you handled it well and a minus sign (-) if you didn’t.
4. Write what you will try next time this situation presents itself.

After two weeks are over go back and see what you have learned. You will be surprised by how much info you gathered in a short time and how much insight and change you have accomplished.

Get more help on anger management by Ron at

Cool Down Cubes to Manage Anger in Children

Cool Down Cubes 


I have several students on my caseload who struggle with anger management and emotional regulation. I loved this idea for Cool Down Cubes from Entirely Elementary and decided to make a set of my own. 

Plastic ice cubes – I purchased a bag of 30 from Bed Bath & Beyond for less than $4
Container – The one pictured came from the Dollar Store
Permanent maker 

Using a permanent marker write a safe “cool down” strategy on each ice cube. For example: count to ten, walk away, talk to a friend, take three deep breaths, etc. I also left a few of the cubes blank so that the students could come up with their own strategies. The original post suggested placing the ice cubes in the freezer for an additional “cool” effect. That’s it! Easy right?

I have used the Cool Down Cubes in both individual and group settings to discuss ways to “cool-off" when angry and have gotten a great response from students.


By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Anger Makes You Stupid:

I know this sounds rude but it is a fact of science. When we get angry our “thinking brain” is literally hijacked by our “emotional brain.” This is nature’s way of forcing us to react instantly to a danger or threat. You don’t want to stop and contemplate the dynamics of your situation when a car is speeding right at you! You need to move NOW! That is what the emotional brain does to protect you.

Unfortunately, the “emotional brain” doesn’t worry if the danger is real or not. It just acts. In our hectic, high tech, modern society many things can trigger our “emotional brain” into action. For some of us, we are being hijacked continually throughout the day due to repeat stressors as the “emotional brain” considers any stress to be a danger.

To illustrate how anger makes us stupid (suspends reasoning), remember a time when you got really angry. Did you say things you wish you hadn’t said or do things you wish you hadn’t done? That is the “emotional brain” at work. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a victim to your own emotions. You can learn to manage them instead of letting them manage (or mismanage) you!

Problem Experts:

You are already an expert on your problems. You know what anger and aggression has done to you and your family. Has this knowledge helped you control it? I didn’t think so. Focusing on your problems will only help you understand where you’ve been. It can never tell you where you need to go or how to change it. What you need are solutions to your problems!

Now I don’t want to invalidate the painful experiences you might have suffered in your life that have led you to be angry. Those were very real experiences. I also don’t want to pretend you haven’t hurt other people in your life with your anger. We have to take responsibility for our actions. I simply want to help you focus on what works, instead of doesn’t work, when it comes to anger.

One way to help you focus on solutions instead of problems is to think of a time when anger did not control your life! Remember a time when anger was not the main character in your life story. What was different about this time versus times when anger was present? How were you different? How do other people in your life act? Be specific. If someone walked in and observed you without anger what would he or she see you saying or doing?

More of the same:

When you don’t have the right solution-focused tools to control anger and aggression, you end up doing “more of the same.” What you have been doing hasn’t worked but since you don’t know what else to do, you just keep on doing it. Out of desperation, you try variations of what hasn’t worked hoping that this time it might. IT WON’T! Instead of doing “more of the same,” try something new — anything new!

Science calls this the Habituation Response. It simply means that you get stuck in your old ways of doing things. Without new ideas or insights you can’t get unstuck. Husbands and wives fight constantly on the same old issues. Parents and children power struggle about the same subjects. Employers and employees cycle around the same problems. Are you seeing repeat patterns in your life! Getting more and more frustrated because nothing changes for long? You are doing more of the same. Do something different!

Myths of Anger Management:

There are lot of myths in our society about how to control anger and aggression. The biggest myth is that “if you let it out, it goes away!” This is called the “volcano myth” because on the venting that occurs and the destruction that results from just letting it all out.

It is true that when you let off a little steam you feel a little better. But where did the problem go? Is it gone? NO. In fact, letting it out may have caused a bigger problem to develop. If you got mad and stormed off in your car you may have gotten into an accident or received a ticket. Now you have something else to be mad about. If you punched a hole in the wall you will have to repair the wall…and maybe your hand. How did that help you? If you threw a tantrum and yelled at a loved one, friend, or boss what did that do to your relationship? Now both of you are angry and looking for revenge! “Letting it out” may feel good in the short-term but it doesn’t help you in the long-term.

Anger is Power:

Ben Franklin once said: “Anger has a purpose, but seldom a good one!” What he meant is that anger is not inherently a bad thing but people have LEARNED that anger and aggression give them power over others. A child learns that a tantrum will get them a toy even when mom said no. Parents learn that yelling gets their child’s attention even though no one is happy afterwards. Employers know that they can get results, in the short-term, by intimidating or harassing others. Spouses use anger to control one another. And so the sad story goes…

With power comes responsibility. What is the negative result of your anger? Is it really worth it in the long run? How have anger and aggression affected your relationships, health, and career? It is time to take responsibility for yourself before you lose/hurt all the important people and things in your life.

Stop YELLING at your kids to get them to cooperate!

Stop NAGGING your spouse to help a little!

Stop FRUSTRATION from ruining your work day!

Contact Ron Huxley today for more information on how to get the right anger tools to better manage your anger. Online coaching and consultations are available for court-ordered anger management requirements. Email Ron now at

Change the Way You Deal With Anger

Did you have a parent who was out of control when they got angry? Are you afraid if you express your anger, you will get out of control? Learn a healthy way of expressing and learning from your anger.

There is much to learn from anger, yet many people are afraid of this feeling because they don’t know how to express anger in ways that are helpful rather than harmful. I teach a process at my weekend “Inner Bonding” workshops called “The Anger Process.” This powerful process, which is described below, is not only for releasing pent-up anger in harmless ways, but for discovering what your responsibility is in a conflict with another person.

Often, when I describe this process in a workshop, some people get anxious and want to leave. They are afraid of anger and of expressing their anger. This is invariably because they come from a family where one or both of their parents or other caregivers were angry in a mean, violent way – a way that caused harm to others. These people are so afraid of being like their mother or father that they repress their anger, taking it out on themselves instead of others.
Neither dumping anger on others nor repressing it and taking it out on yourself is healthy. Anger expressed in these ways is about controlling rather than learning. Venting anger on another is about controlling through intimidation and blame. Anger dumped on yourself is about controlling feelings that are harder to feel than anger, such as fear, anxiety, loneliness, heartbreak or helplessness over others.

Anger is an important emotion. It informs us that we are thinking or behaving in ways that are not in our highest good. You may have been taught that other people’s behavior causes your anger, but this is generally not true. Others may behave in ways that you don’t like, but your anger at them is frequently a projection of how you are not taking care of yourself – a way to control them rather than take care of yourself.

It’s important to differentiate between blaming anger and justified anger, which can be called outrage. Outrage is the feeling we have when there is injustice, such as seeing someone abuse a child. Outrage moves us to take appropriate, loving action in our own or others behalf.
Blaming anger comes from feeling like a victim and gets us off the hook from having to take personal responsibility for ourselves. This anger does not lead to learning or to healthy action.
The anger process is a way of expressing anger that leads to learning and growth. When people in my workshop want to leave rather than do the process, I explain that it is very important for them to reassure the frightened child within that this anger is not like their father’s or mother’s anger – it is not being expressed with the intent to control. It is being expressed with the intent to learn.

The “Anger Process” is a 3-step process that is done when you are alone:

  1. Fully express anger toward a person you are presently angry with (not in their presence!). You can yell, call names, kick something, and pound with fists on a pillow or with a bat or towel, but do not harm yourself.
  • Ask yourself who this person reminds you of in the past – parent, teacher, sibling, friend – and then let the angry part of you again fully express the anger.
  • Finally – and this is the most important part – allow the angry child within to express his or her anger at you, the adult, for all ways you are not taking care of yourself in this conflict, or ways you are treating yourself badly, or treating yourself like the other person is treating you.
  • Step three is the most important part, because it brings the issue home to personal responsibility. If you just do the first two parts, you are left feeling like an angry victim. The anger that comes from being a victim is a bottomless pit, and will never lead to learning and resolution.

    Once you understand that you can express your anger with an intention to learn, your fear of your own anger will go away. You don’t have to repress your anger in order to not be like your parents.


    This Blogger’s Books from


    Healing Your Aloneness: Finding Love and Wholeness Through Your Inner Child

    Ron Huxley’s Resolutions: Over the years I have trained people on how to manage their anger and there is one big truth that I try to get across: Anger management is life management. As we enter into a new year, stop focusing on managing your emotions…emotions don’t want to be managed. Start focusing on life changes. Get out of the abusive relationship. Get some professional help through a marriage counselor, psychologist or doctor. Start getting healthier. Do whatever it takes to change your life and you will see anger lose its hold on you.

    Click on the link to the right to join our 12 year long anger management group online –>

    Join our Parenting “Inner Circle” and get exclusive tools to deal with anger in the home –>

    Putting on Your Anger Management Tool Belt

    This article was written some time ago on how to deal with anger in the workplace. I think it a powerful resource for parents at home as well…Enjoy!

    Do you wake up in the morning with your stomach tied up in knots? Does the thought of going to work and dealing with your co-workers seem unbearable? Have you ever thought that if you never had to deal with people, your job would be great? Family therapist Ron Huxley shares some tools for conflict resolution.

    Use prevention to avoid problems

    It is easier to deal with a problem or a problem person if you know it is coming. It’s when you are surprised by a co-worker’s rude behavior that you’re unable to cope with him. Knowing that a co-worker will be rude to you gives you time to plan how you will handle him.

    It doesn’t mean to plan how you will be equally rude back to him. It means finding a way to protect you emotionally and then turn the situation around, if possible. Finding the right tool for the job to do just that is where most of us get stuck.

    The anger tool belt

    Dealing with problems is like fixing a household appliance. You need to know how the appliance works and you need the right tools for the job. When you plan to deal with your angry co-worker, you will need an anger tool belt filled with an assortment of anger management tools.

    Tool #1: Labels

    Perhaps the most basic tool available to us is communication. If your co-worker barks at you when asked about an overdue report, respond to him by labeling his feelings. For example, stating “You’re angry at me right now” can actually reduce his anger towards you. The most basic reason for this is that your co-worker suddenly feels understood. It is far easier to be angry with people who don’t listen then it is for people who do.

    Labels let the air out of the proverbial balloon before it fills up and explodes. It gives you mastery over the emotion by taking the person out of the emotion, makes it a force of its own, to be handled and managed. Most arguments focus on personal attacks and not the problem to be solved. Giving an emotion, like anger, a label allows you to acknowledge the emotion and move on to finding a solution separate from blaming one another.

    Your co-worker, expecting a retort, may look momentarily stunned by your new response and then mutter, “Yeah, I’m buried up to eyeballs with work. Give me ‘til Friday and I’ll have the report ready.” At that point the two of you can negotiate a time for the report that is mutually acceptable.

    Tool #2: Negotiation

    Negotiation skills are essential in dealing with angry people. Negotiation is a tool that allows for a win/win situation to occur between two parties who do not already mutually agree. It has several steps:

    Step 1: Know what is negotiable and not negotiable. If next Friday is not an acceptable time for the report, you are in a much better position to negotiate and not feel used by him. Specify, matter of factly, what is and is not an acceptable time for the report.

    Step 2: Be open-minded. Be willing to listen and consider the other person’s viewpoint. Stephen Covey, in his book the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” suggests that you seek first to understand the other person before you ask to be understood. You will increase your co-worker’s cooperation by asking him to tell you what is troubling him first.

    Step 3: Set a time limit. Keep the negotiation time short to prevent the discussion from getting off track. It usually ends up in blaming each other for one’s problems. Keep things on the topic at hand and to the point no matter how much they get off topic.

    Step 4: Keep it private. Don’t embarrass your co-worker by negotiating in public. He will be more likely to react negatively if he thinks others are watching him. Ask to talk to him in a private room.

    Step 5: Stay calm and cool. Don’t try to negotiate when feeling angry, tired, or preoccupied with other things. If the situation gets too hot, suggest taking a few minutes to cool off and then resume the negotiation. Set this up as a ground rule before negotiating if you think a heated discussion is likely.

    Step 6: Acknowledge the others’ point of view. Even if your co-worker is totally off base, acknowledge his feelings about the report. They are important to him even if they are irrational. One way to do this is to say, “I can see how you could feel the way you do given your work load.”

    Step 7: Restate the final solution once it is reached. Most failures to cooperate after a negotiation is due to a misunderstanding about what EXACTLY were agreed upon. Write it in memo form if that seems necessary.

    Of course, labels and negotiation may not be enough. Your co-worker may continue to be rude and attacking even when you acknowledging his anger. Negotiation may falter because he refuses to budge. No matter how you try to communicate, his obnoxious behavior is unrelenting. That’s when you use the tool of change.

    Tool #3: Change Your Situation

    Many people believe that they have no choice but to put up with the co-worker’s obnoxious behavior. They let people walk over them because they are in positions of power. It might be a boss who has the power to fire you or your spouse who can make your life miserable or your co-worker who won’t give you the report you need to make you look irresponsible. The reality is that you always have a choice. You can change yourself, the stressor, or the situation. Notice that changing the other person was not one of the choices listed here although that is the one most often chosen. It is also the one that is the least effective. You have no guarantees that you can change the other person. You always have a 100% guarantee to change yourself. But isn’t that being a victim? No, you are never a victim when you choose what and how to change.

    You can change yourself by taking care of yourself. Are you getting enough exercise and sleep? What is your diet like? Do you spend a few moments meditating or engaging in relaxing activities every day? The better you take care of yourself, the better you can deal with that angry co-worker.

    You can change yourself by changing how you respond to angry people. Using the communication tools above is a step in the right direction. Your co-worker expects you to act in a pre-programmed manner. Call it a dance. He leads and you follow. Changing the dance steps changes the dance.

    You can change the stressor by getting more organized. Perhaps if you were more organized you could have asked your co-worker for the report earlier in the week lessening the chances of an angry reaction from him. The more organized you are the better you are able to cope with unexpected problems or problem people.

    You can also change your work situation. You don’t have to stay where you are. You might think that you do, for whatever reason, but it is still a choice you are making. Even if you stay in the job you have now, you can always ask to be reassigned to a new department or share a new cubicle with another employee.

    There are always choices. And having choices empowers us to deal with angry people in a more confident manner.

    Finding a little serenity

    Let’s be honest: Life is difficult. This is a basic truth of various wisdom traditions and perhaps, of common sense. But the fact that life is full of problems, shouldn’t be your focus. Your focus should be on how will you respond to problems and problem people. Don’t be surprised by them when you know they will rear their ugly heads again and again. Instead, get a plan and a tool belt full of anger management tools.

    Use these tools to change your life so that you don’t wake up every morning with a knot in your stomach. Work on you and you may be pleasantly surprised by the results it creates in others. One way of looking at all of this is the Serenity Prayer popularized by the Alcoholics Anonymous movement. Hey, why should millions of people have all the good stuff? If it helps them overcome alcoholism, maybe it can help you deal with angry people.

    The Serenity Prayer goes something like this: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Finding a little serenity means changing what we can, the best way that we can and not stressing over what we can’t change, namely other people.