DEAR ABBY: I am a 16-year-old girl and I fight with my mother almost daily. It makes me sad and upset all the time, and I don't know what to do. The last fight we had was over something so dumb I don't even know why I dragged it out for so long. I said things I didn't mean — things that were hurtful and cruel.
No child should ever treat a parent like I treat my mom. I take her love and kindness for granted, and never tell her how much I really do appreciate her. What I said to her in anger made her cry.
How can I tell or show my mom how sorry I am and how much I love her and admire her, and how can I stop myself from exploding and saying things to her that I don't mean?
— UPSET IN INDIANA
DEAR UPSET: The most direct way to make amends would be to hug your mom and apologize for flying off the handle and saying things you didn't mean. Tell her you love her and will try hard to do better because you are ashamed of your behavior and know it wasn't justified.
It's important to understand that the average person can experience frustration that leads to anger multiple times a day. Anger is a normal emotion.
The challenge that everyone faces is how not to deny the feeling, but to express it in ways that are productive for ourselves and not hurtful to others. One way to accomplish this is recognizing what pushes our buttons. What provoked you? Were you under pressure? Or were you angry about something else so you "dumped" on an innocent party (in this case, your mom) because she was handy?
In my booklet, "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It," I explain that one of the unhealthiest ways to deal with anger is to deny or repress it. However, because most of us have been trained from early childhood to suppress anger, many of us need to learn to express it appropriately.
The Anger booklet can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to Dear Abby — Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.
In it are suggestions for managing anger, including how to express anger in constructive ways, such as a few well-chosen words that will make your point. It takes maturity to identify and verbalize negative emotions instead of "lashing out" and saying — or doing — something you'll regret.
Being able to calmly say, "When you do (blank), it makes me angry," before flying off the handle will earn you respect from others. If you resort to name-calling, the other person hears only the "static" and doesn't get your message. The first step in controlling anger is to recognize that the emotion is building, to understand that there are healthy and effective ways to express it, and to diffuse it before you lose control.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.