Phase 3:

Self-Management (For Caregiver and Child)

Overview of Phase 3

After completing "Phase I: Understanding Child Behavior and Parenting Practices," we now move to "Phase II: Self-Management".

This phase has 4 topics:

Understanding Anger
A brain with comic-style splat behind it

Learn a framework for thinking about anger and the ways in which it affects us all.

Jump to "Understanding Anger"
Working on Yourself
A caregiver chiseling a statue of himself

Learn strategies to settle your anger and think in healthier, balanced, and more effective ways.

Jump to "Working on Yourself"
Helping Your Child to Understand Anger
A brain with comic-style splat behind it

Help your child to learn a framework for thinking about anger and the ways in which it affects us all.

Jump to "Helping Your Child to Understand Anger"
Helping Your Child Work on Themselves
A caregiver chiseling a statue of himself

Help your child to learn strategies to settle their anger and think in healthier, balanced, and more effective ways.

Jump to "Working on Yourself"

Let's start by having YOU review these two topics.

Understanding Anger

Anger is a normal human emotion felt by everyone at one time or another. You can’t stop anger from happening, but you can control how you respond to it. When you respond to anger impulsively, you can lose control of the situation and wind up making it worse. When you respond to anger with a level head, you can manage the situation and bring about more positive outcomes. Your child is learning new skills to work on their anger, and it’s important that you learn these skills as well. Caregivers should act as a role model for good anger management if they want their child to show better control of their behavior.

To better understand anger, we must consider its causes and effects. One model for doing that is the ABC model, which comes from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You may remember from earlier in this workbook that CBT focuses on making connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and learning practical skills to change or manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

The ABC model, which stands for A Situation – Behavior – Consequences, will help you to understand where your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors come from and how taking control of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can guide you to better outcomes.

Looking at the ABC Model

ABC Model illustrating how a situation leads to behaviors that lead to consequences

A Situation

An event or situation that triggers an emotional response.

Example: Johnny hits his brother.


A thought, feeling, or action.

Example: You think Johnny did it on purpose, you feel angry, you yell.


Results or outcomes of the behavioral response.

Example: Johnny feels even angrier and yells back, which leads to a fight.

To change the consequences of a behavior, you must change some part of the behavior – your thoughts, feelings, and/or actions. Because thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected, you need only change one to bring about change in a tense situation. So, even if you can only change your actions, but not your thoughts or feelings, you will be able to influence the outcome of a situation. Does that make sense?

Putting the ABC Model Into Practice

Review Handout: ABC Model of CBT

Identifying Triggers

A trigger is something, like a situation or event, that prompts an unwanted behavioral response, like anger or yelling. It is important to know your triggers so you can avoid them or prepare yourself for how you will respond to them in a healthy and productive way.

Complete Handout: Anger Thermometer

Working on Yourself

Now that you know where your anger comes from and how it can negatively affect the outcomes of situations, you might want to know what you can do about it. Below are a few strategies for addressing your anger: taking action to eliminate the stressor, calling on relaxation techniques when the stressor cannot be escaped, and adjusting your thinking.

Managing Your World (Actions)

One way to control your anger is to remove yourself from triggering situations when you start to feel too hot, or like your actions might lead you to a negative outcome.

To do this, you must be in touch with your internal thermometer and know when you’ve reached your limit. Only remove yourself from situations where it is safe for you and your child to do so. Take a moment now to think about when it might be appropriate and when it might not be safe/appropriate to remove yourself from triggering situations.

A good way to tell that you need to consider stepping away from a triggering situation is to pay attention to the Fight or Flight response in your body. You may have heard of this before, but Fight or Flight is basically your body’s way of preparing you when you feel threatened or escalated in any way. Your body prepares you to either fight or run away, which we know are not the appropriate responses to triggering situations with your child. When you feel your heart racing, breathing quicken, stomach clenching, muscles tightening, and/or head pounding, those are all good indicators that you may want to remove yourself.

Once you have done this, it is important to have other strategies ready for relaxing yourself after you’ve been triggered.

Managing Your Body (Relaxation Skills)

Relax Your Body

How to Relax Using Controlled Breathing

Review Handout: How to Relax Using Controlled Breathing
  1. Get comfortable in your chair. Close your eyes.
  2. Rate your anger level and write it down.
  3. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach, with your pinky finger on the belly button, so you can feel your diaphragm.
  4. Take a couple deep breaths. Your stomach should expand (push out) and deflate (pull in) with each breath.
  5. As you breathe in and out, slow your breathing down.
  6. Expand your stomach with your next deep breath, slowly count from 1 to 5 or as far as you are able to in that single breath.
  7. Deflate your stomach by exhaling slowly, counting from 1 to 5 again, until you are out of breath.
  8. Repeat this deep, slow inhaling and exhaling while counting, until you are feeling relaxed.
  9. Gradually let your breathing return to normal and open your eyes.
  10. Rate your anger level and write it down.
Controlled Breathing

How to Relax Using Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Review Handout: How to Relax Using Progressive Muscle Relaxation
General Muscle Relaxation
  1. Rate your anger level and write it down.
  2. Take slow, deep breaths.
  3. Take a big breath in, tense your entire body, count to five, breathe out and completely relax or let go.
  4. Continue tensing your body 5 times.
  5. Remember to take deep breaths.
  6. Let your eyes drift open.
  7. Rate your anger level and write it down.
For a Deeper Relaxation
  1. Rate your anger level and write it down.
  2. Tense then relax each of your muscle groups (starting with your legs, buttocks, arms, face, then entire body).
  3. Remember to take deep breaths.
  4. Rate your anger level and write it down.

Managing Your Mind (Countering Automatic Thoughts)

Automatic thoughts are just what they sound like – thoughts that pop up automatically in response to a stressful situation. These thoughts are often negative or irrational and can feed your anger and cloud your judgement. CBT assumes that negative thought patterns and unreasonable beliefs can lead to unhealthy feelings and behaviors, which can lead to negative consequences. The next section will provide examples of different types of automatic thoughts and ways to counteract them.

Patterns of Personal Thinking

Review Handout: Patterns of Personal Thinking

Caregivers of children with behavior problems tend to experience 3 common Patterns of Personal Thinking that can contribute to feelings of anger when faced with a triggering situation with their child. These 3 common thinking errors are:

  • Hostile Attribution Bias
  • Punishment Fallacy
  • High Expectations ("Shoulds")
Hostile Attribution Bias

What it is: Hostile attribution bias occurs when we make the assumption that another person’s actions were intended to harm us in some way.

What it looks like in parenting: When our child misbehaves, we might have thoughts like, "He is just doing that to mess with me," "She just wants to make me mad," "He doesn’t care that he is going to make me late for work," or "She is trying to embarrass me."

What we can do to counter it: Examine this thought and ask opposite questions, such as: "What other reason might he have to do this?," "Does she really enjoy making me angry?," "Is it possible that he does not understand that I am going to be late for work or maybe that he doesn’t understand what happens if I am late?," or "Is it possible that she does not understand that I am embarrassed?"

Alternate thoughts: "Maybe it was an accident," "She probably does not realize how this affects me"

Punishment Fallacy

What it is: Punishment fallacy occurs when we automatically think that we need to punish a child strongly when we have been involved in an activating event with them. This thinking error often includes physical discipline strategies and/or severe consequences.

What it looks like in parenting: When our child misbehaves, we might have thoughts like, "He just needs a good spanking," "I am going to take away her phone for a month," "Oooooh, he is going to GET IT NOW", or "Just wait until her dad hears about this!"

What we can do to counter it: Remind ourselves that behavioral health research has demonstrated extensively that physical discipline is not effective for true behavior change or helpful in building a healthy relationship with your child and lengthy/severe consequences are less effective than brief, targeted punishments. Ask yourself, "If it worked, would we need this help from others?"

Alternate Thoughts: "I am going to find an appropriate punishment for this misbehavior," "Spanking never works"

High Expectations ("Shoulds")

What it is: "Shoulds" are thinking patterns where we have a list of inflexible rules about how our child should/must/has to act.

What it looks like in parenting: When our child does not follow the mental list of rules we have developed for him/her, we have thoughts like, "She should know better," "He should be able to do that without my help," "She has to get all of that done right now," or "He should be able to handle this better."

What we can do to counter it: A big piece of stopping our "shoulds" comes from asking ourselves "Why?" – "Why should he/she know better/be able to/etc?" We can ask ourselves what evidence we have to prove that "should" is factual and also examine whether our rules are inflexible.

Alternate Thoughts: "She might not be able to do that yet," "I may have set my expectations too high on this"

Child Self-Management

Anger is a normal, human emotion. Everyone feels anger sometimes – it’s not a bad thing! Anger can actually be really helpful in letting us know when something is bothering us. What’s important is how we respond to anger. Again, it’s OK to feel angry, but we need to make good choices when we are angry. This means that we try to use our anger to make a situation better, and not to make it worse.

There are 3 basic rules about responding to your anger that we want you to remember:

  • Don't hurt others (with your words or actions)
  • Don't hurt yourself (with your angry thuoghts or your actual body)
  • Don't hurt property (either your stuff or other people's)

Our body gives us signals that we are getting angry – this is called the Fight or Flight response. It is an automatic reaction we feel when we feel very threatened and like we are in danger. Our body decides that it needs the energy to either defend itself (fight) or run away fast (flight), so we might feel things like our heart beating fast, our muscles clenching up, our breathing get faster, and our thinking changing. Even though "Fight or Flight" is normal, feeling very angry can turn into a problem – if we get angry and our body and brain view the situation as a problem/threat/danger, we may not be able to think clearly and may react in ways we regret later.

How do you feel or act when you are angry? Look at the list of common responses below – do any of these sound familiar?

When I'm angry, I feel...

  • Out of control
  • Annoyed
  • Hot or sweaty
  • Like my heart is beating hard
  • Like I have an upset stomach
  • Shaky
  • Dizzy

When I'm angry, I...

  • Scream or yell
  • Say things I don't mean
  • Throw things
  • Hit or kick things
  • Slam doors

What kinds of things make you angry?

Once we know what types of situations make us feel angry, it is important to know how much anger we feel during these situations so we know which ones need plans and which ones we can already handle well.

Complete Handout: Anger Thermometer

Helping Your Child to Work on Themselves

Relax Your Body

Taking deep breaths can be helpful in calming down our bodies when we are feeling angry. The trick is learning how to do this the right way! Most people take deep breaths and move their shoulders up and down – this does not help to calm our bodies. Instead, try to breathe slowly and deeply with your shoulders still and your belly getting bigger (like inflating a balloon) when you breathe in and your belly getting flatter (like letting the air out of the balloon) when you breathe out.

Once you get the hang of deep breathing, move on to practicing relaxing your muscles. Complete the handout below to practice taking deep breaths and relaxing your muscles.

Review Handout: Deep Breathing

Tips for Calming Down

A Peaceful Place

Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed.

Stretch out in a comfortable position.

Focusing and Breathing

Take slow, deep breaths. Sigh out loud if you want.

Let your eyes close.

Tensing and Relaxing

Tense and relax each of your muscle groups.

Remember to tense until the count of five.

Breathe out deeply when you relax.

If You Don't Have Time for a Nap

Take a few more deep breaths.

Let your eyes drift open.

How relaxed do you feel?

Review Handout: Tips for Calming Down

Relax Your Mind

Review Handout: Relaxing Your Mind and World

Thinking of a very relaxing or safe place can be a way of using your imagination to distract your mind from angry or even worried thoughts and let your body calm down. Read through the questions below and then close your eyes and picture your favorite place (real or imaginary!) Then, go back through the questions and write down your answers so you can quickly review them when you need to.

Steps for Guided Imagery

  1. Where am I (beach, meadow, woods, my room)?
  2. What time of day is it? What temperature is the air?
  3. Am I with anyone? Who?
  4. What can I hear (birds, music, wind in the trees)?
  5. What can I smell (ocean, spring flowers, rain)?
  6. What can I feel (cool breeze, soft blanket)?

Guided Imagery is a great relaxation practice to use in lots of different places and situations. You can quickly imagine your favorite place any time you’re angry – even if you do not have much time to get yourself calmed down or if you are in public!

Relax Your World

When you work to improve your relationships with your friends and family, you will find that you actually have less times where you feel angry with or because of them. Also, when you have stronger relationships with the people you care about, they are more likely to help you calm down when you need it. Read through these ways to improve your relationships:

Ways to be Nice to Friends and Family

Improving your relationships with others is another way you can reduce the interactions with others that make you angry.

Anger Tracker

Now that you have learned so much about the things that make you angry, how your body gives you cues about your anger, and what you can do to better control it, it's time to practice! Over the next few days, write down at least 3 anger-provoking situations and record:

  1. What was the situation?
  2. What were your warning signals (headache, stomachache, muscle tension, etc)? You can even draw a picture in the box!
  3. How stressful was it for you (a little, somewhat, very)?
  4. What did you do and what happened? Be sure to try to use your relaxation skills!
Complete Handout: Anger Tracker

End of Phase 3

Congratulations on completing Phase 3 of this guide!