Dear Abby:

I am a single mother with two daughters, 2 and 4. I love them with all my heart, but I'm afraid my yelling is affecting them.

I can't control it, and when I do it, I frighten them. They cover their bodies and start to cry. I have never hit either of them.

This is causing huge fights with their father. He is very involved with them, and he sometimes yells but they don't react the same way.

I feel like a bad mother and monster. What can I do to stop myself from losing my temper and have a better relationship with my daughters? I'm afraid I'll hurt them.

Fearful in Minnesota

The first thing you must do is get to the bottom of what's triggering your anger. Is this how you were treated as a child? If so, you should know firsthand how damaging verbal abuse can be.

Are your expectations of your little ones unrealistic? If that's the case, parenting classes could be helpful. Many school districts and hospitals offer them.

In the meantime, when you feel you're about to blow your stack, leave the room. If necessary, go outside for a few minutes. Count to 10 -- slowly. Decompress. Get a grip. Once you have calmed down, you'll be better able to act in an adult and rational manner, rather than react.

Dear Abby:

My brother, "Don," is 13. There is a 13-year age difference between us. Lately, Don has not been himself. He used to talk with me about his problems. Now he won't discuss anything more than the weather or everyday things. He used to be caring and happy. Now he's angry a lot, sometimes to the point that he hits himself in the face.

When I ask Don why he does this, he gets upset and says he doesn't care anymore. Mom and Dad work a lot. I know my little brother is not on drugs. I checked. Is this just part of being a teen? How can I help him?

Brother in Alabama

When someone becomes angry, the normal impulse is to strike out. For some reason your brother is directing his anger back on himself. Whatever is at the root of his anger and unhappiness, the quickest way to get him the help he needs is to tell your parents what you have observed. Hitting oneself in the face could be a sign of psychological problems that should be treated by a mental health professional.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate