ADHD and Anger Management for Children

Angry boy shouting with sound waves
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It is not uncommon for children with ADHD to react in anger. It can be very difficult for these kids to manage and regulate their emotions. They may also be hypersensitive. Stressful or frustrating situations can quickly boil over into intense anger. Children with ADHD also have a tough time being able to stop and think through problems before reacting. As a parent, it can be hard to see your child losing control. While we can’t make the anger disappear, we can help our children better manage these intense reactions.

Understand Triggers

Be aware of what triggers your child’s angry meltdowns. Are there particular times of day that anger appears to peak? Are there any patterns? You may notice that after school time is most difficult as your child is able to let down his guard and release pent up feelings. It may be when he is feeling hungry or tired. There may be triggers that set him off like when he is experiencing frustration with a task. Also, times the medication is wearing off may be most difficult.

Intervene Early

As you become more aware of the triggers, you can begin to intervene before the anger comes to a full blown head. Be a calming presence. If your child responds well to physical contact, rub his back or arm. Encourage him to take a deep breath and count to 10. Do this along with him to help demonstrate this calming technique.

Use Time Out

Time out doesn’t have to be punitive. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Time out is a great way for your child to remove himself from the negative situation to take some time to cool down. Approach time out in this way. Pick a time when your child is happy and settled and talk with him about how to use time out. Give him a sense of control by having him chose a designated time out chair away from the hustle and bustle of the household. Now he will understand how to use it when he needs it.

Once he does need a time out, you will have to provide guidance by walking with him to the designated time out chair. As he sits down in the chair (or stands by the chair if the movement is helpful), practice the deep breathing exercises with him. Don’t try to talk with him about the situation until he is calm and settled. Give him a lot of praise for being able to use time out to cool down, and then spend some time talking with him about what happened. If his anger led him to react by destroying his crayons and breaking them in two, ask him what he could have done differently to express his feelings in a way that is less harmful, more productive. Be aware of your voice tone and model calmness. Give him praise for coming up with positive alternative solutions.

Label Feelings

As you notice your child is beginning to feel frustrated, reflect upon his feelings. “That puzzle is really hard to put together! I see it is making you feel a little frustrated.” As you do this you will help your child become more aware of his own feelings. As awareness increases, you can help your child label his own feelings. If you got an update from the teacher that your child had a rough time with peers that day, spend time talking with him about how it felt. Help him to express his feelings to you by using words.

Offer Choices

Offering choices to your child gives him a sense of control. If you know that your child has difficulty with transitions such as clean up time, help him ease through this time by offering a choice. “Do you want to clean up the blocks first or the race cars?” Just be sure to limit the number of choices to two or three. Too many choices can make a child feel overwhelmed or over-stimulated.

Make Sure Your Child Is Getting Plenty of Sleep

Children with ADD/ADHD often have difficulties with sleep. When kids don’t get enough sleep they are more irritable and moody, have more trouble tolerating stress, are more easily frustrated, and overall symptoms of ADD/ADHD will be worse during the day.

Model Good Anger Management Yourself

It is very hard for children with ADD/ADHD to regulate their own emotions, but the more and more you can do to help your child understand his feelings and be more aware of alternative, more positive ways to react the better. One way to do this is through example. Teach by example, by not only responding in an appropriate manner but also by talking through the process so your child will better understand.

Read Books Together

Go to the library and pick out books that address feelings, especially related to anger, frustration, rejection, isolation, sadness, or any other difficult emotion your child frequently experiences. Ask the librarian for recommendations. Read these stories together with your child and discuss the feelings. Discuss the ways the character handles their feelings. How do the characters react? Could they have reacted differently? How might you react when faced with the same situation? Problem solve situations together and discuss positive steps characters can take.

Spend Special Time Together

Make sure you set aside regular times each day to spend one on one time with your child. Make this time together with positive, loving and nurturing. So often kids with ADD/ADHD experience negative, negative, negative. They need to know that they are valued and loved. You as the parent can make a world of difference in your child’s positive sense of self. Special time with you is incredibly valuable.​

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