When I Get Mad

School counselors have the unique opportunity to help teach students how to process their feelings and how to manage them. One of my favorite tools to target mad feelings is the book Mouse was Mad by Linda Urban. Here's a slightly-edited version of a guest blog post I wrote for Books That Heal Kids.

From the moment you open this book, you get that the adorable little Mouse is clearly very angry, but you never really know why. I love that about this tale, because the author leaves it opened to possibilities. Start this read-aloud out by showing the cute illustrations of the Mad little Mouse on the inside of the front cover and pose the question, "What do you think Mouse is SO mad about?" I think you'll be surprised at how your little listeners respond while you gain insight into what kinds of things make them mad. Be ready for some crazy responses; I was shocked when one of my kiddos said, "Someone has probably called him an idiot again." Ouch! 

But what's the best way to be mad? Bear stomps. Hare hops. Bobcat screams. And Hedgehog rolls himself into a sphere (yay for math integration!). But Mouse? When he attempts to take his friends' lead, he just can't get it right, or so they say. His rage grows as he tries to rid himself of his anger. When he finds the way that works best for him - getting perfectly still - he discovers he might be pretty good at managing anger after all.

Mouse's story is so incredibly cute and full of the entertaining playfulness that kids (and adults like me!) enjoy. Your students are likely to catch on quickly to the repetition as the enraged rodent attempts to mimic the bear by stomping or be like the bobcat and get it out with a good scream. Students may even get a good laugh when he lands, over and over again, in a "mucky mud puddle." But that's not my favorite part. What grabbed me about this gem is the built in anger-management skills our little learners can use long after the read-aloud is over. 

Mad lasts until it's done, right? I used this book in small group as a springboard for a "What-works-for-you?" discussion about how to get over being mad. How each friend advises Mouse that he manage his anger makes for a wonderful discussion about what strategy might work best for each student. In the end, Mouse gets still, breathes deeply, then craves a bubble bath, so we talk about the calming effects of deep breathing and warm water. 

I give each student a small bottle of dollar-store bubbles that we blow as we practice taking deep breaths. The deeper and more controlled the breath, the bigger the bubble, a simply way to perfect an effective anger-management strategy. You could also get some bubble wrap and encourage students to pop each bubble individually to help their "angries" disappear. Click here for some additional ideas and visit the ANGRIES Out website for more tools.

Finally, talk with your students about other anger-management strategies they've tried. What works, how does it help, and why? Expect answers like exercise, talking it out, writing it down, punching a pillow, taking a time-out, screaming. Validate these healthy choices for when anger chooses them. Teach them how to take square breaths – breathe in deeply through your nose as you draw the first leg of a square with your pointer finger, hold it as you draw the line across the square, exhale through your mouth completely as you draw the 2nd leg, then hold it as you complete the square. Do three of these in a row with your students and ask them to describe how their brains feel.
The kids LOVE it when I wear my crabby hat!

Put on your crabby hat if you have one and follow up with this little ditty using the music from The Adamms' Family:

When I get mad (snap, snap), 
When I get mad (snap, snap) -
Here's what I do, to get me through, 
when I get mad (snap, snap).
I practice my square breathing, 
I slowly count from one to ten.
I talk it out or exercise, 
'til I am glad again!

As a writing extension, encourage students to insert other ideas into the two "strategy" lines and write another verse.

NOTE:  Wanna see what happens to the brain when you get mad? Click here for a HANDY explanation!


  1. We are celebrating School Counselor's Week at Osage this week! I thought I would send you a "Happy Counselor's Week" message, too!!

  2. Happy Counselor's Week! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!

    Quench Your First

  3. You are the best! Happy Counselor's Week! I don't have this book...I want this book...thanks for sharing it and the great activity to use with this book!!


    The Picture Book Teacher's Edition

  4. What a great post! I will be using this wiht my Aspie son. I have been looking for something like this for years!!

    Think, Wonder, & Teach

  5. Oh my goodness - LOVE the crabby hat ... could have totally used that today ;) ... .
    What a great book to use for inferring.
    Now, where are those bubbles so I can blow my angries out - it's been that kind of day ... or week.

    Runde's Room

  6. Cute Cute Cute Crabby Hat!!!! I definitely needed one of those today. Must be something in the air.

    First Grade Delight

  7. Great activity Barbara! Love the hat!

  8. Love all the activities, especially the breathing exercise and the link to the article on brain chemistry. Thanks as always for being so helpful.


I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!