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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Anger -- a normal human emotion when dealt with positively and assertively, not negatively and aggressively -- can advance mankind.

However, many people don't have the skills to positively deal with anger because they've never been taught the skills.

Anger-management skills classes should be part of the curriculum in all our nation's schools and prison systems. This would help eliminate some of the depression, domestic abuse, divorces, alcoholism, drug addiction, crime and murder in our country. I believe the benefits would far outweigh the costs.

For people who recognize their anger-management problems and want to learn the skills to enable them to deal with those problems positively, our society should make it "politically correct" to seek help through counseling. In other words, we should drop the stigma, as we have in the last 10 years or so in regard to alcoholism and drug addiction. -- CARL FOX, HURST, TEXAS

DEAR CARL: Although I'm not sure I agree that the "stigma" in regard to alcoholism and drug addiction has been erased, I do agree that anger-management classes in schools could be helpful in lowering levels of violence. A step in the right direction are the peer mediation programs that are being implemented in many schools, which help to defuse problems before they become serious.

DEAR ABBY: You goofed when you advised "Tony's Mom" to buy earplugs if counseling couldn't keep her husband from yelling at their 10-year-old son. All that yelling will only harden the child, and when he reaches his teens, it could become explosive.

I, too, was a "yeller" and found my teen-ager becoming increasingly angry, hateful and disrespectful. Instead of trying to force him to change, I decided to change myself. I focused daily on adhering to the following goals:

1. I showed my love for my son by touching him gently at least 10 times a day with hugs, pats, or just resting a hand on his shoulder when he talked to me.

2. When I wanted his attention I went to him, touching him gently and speaking very softly, looking him in the eye.

3. I listened attentively to his stories, remarks, comments, etc., without judgment or criticism.

4. I stayed in control of my emotions and stopped yelling, which eliminated the power struggles.

This calmer, nicer approach reduced the arguments and resistance to what I asked. It was amazing how quickly I got my sweet, loving son back. -- WISER IN NORTH TEXAS

DEAR WISER: Your suggestions are certainly worth trying -- and in many cases could go a long way toward establishing a more loving family atmosphere.

However, I recommended family counseling because it can provide insight into how these disruptive patterns began, as well as methods for eliminating them and improving the level of communication between all parties.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 15-year-old boy who likes to read Dear Abby. I would just like to say that not just girls read Dear Abby. Please print my letter because I do not want boys to feel left out! -- PATRICK S., CAMARILLO, CALIF.

DEAR PATRICK: You're right. My readership includes all ages and both sexes.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600