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Understanding ADHD Children and Anger


Updated May 16, 2014

Understanding ADHD Children and Anger

Anger and ADHD - Why Do Some Kids with ADHD Have Issues with Anger Control?

Understanding Anger

There are a number of factors that may contribute to children’s angry reactions. Kids with ADHD often have a difficult time managing their emotions. They tend to feel things very deeply and can have a hard time modulating these feelings. Both children and adults with ADHD have greater emotional liability issues than those without ADHD. This means that moods can change very quickly and emotional reactions can easily be provoked.

For many of these children the intense reactions may be related to a low tolerance for frustration or even low feelings of self esteem expressed outwardly.

Sometimes children experience a difficult period when their stimulant medications are wearing off, resulting in increased meltdowns and tantrums.

A child with ADHD may also be very impulsive, reacting without thought. Impulsivity may even lead an ADHD child to respond in anger with aggression. The energy and restlessness that comes along with ADHD may be too much to handle at times until it finally bubbles over into angry words or physical reactions.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Approximately one third of all children with ADHD also have a condition called Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Children with ODD display defiant, hostile behaviors towards authority figures. They often lose their temper, frequently argue with adults, actively defy rules, blame others, deliberately annoy others, are touchy and easily annoyed themselves, and overall behave in angry, resentful ways. Obviously, some oppositional behaviors are expected in children, ODD is only diagnosed if the pattern of behavior is significantly more intense and frequent when compared to other children of the same age.

Find Positive Outlets for Anger

If anger is an issue for your child, be sure to provide appropriate outlets. Strenuous outdoor play and exercise can be very powerful releases for children with ADHD. Running, jumping, skipping, climbing –- these basic physical activities will help release some of the tension, restlessness, and extra energy that often accompanies ADHD. Make sure your child is engaging in this type of play daily.

Limit Television and Video Games

Supervise the programs your child watches on television or on the computer. Much of the media on T.V., movies, video games, etc. is violent, aggressive, and inappropriate. Children with impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by the aggressive reactions they see. Set rules around these programs and explain to your child why it is not appropriate to watch these shows (or play these video games) or to respond in an aggressive or destructive manner.

Set Up Clear Rules and Enforce Rules Consistently

Make sure you have clear house rules around behavior. When your child is settled and able to talk, sit down and come up with the rules together. Discuss expectations and consequences for behaviors, including a reward system for positive decision making. Brainstorm positive alternatives to acting out.

Click on How Can Parents Help Their Child Manage Feelings of Anger? to read more.

Additional Reading:
Tips for Maintaining a Scream-Free Home
Tips For Improving Communication with Your Child
ADHD and Stimulant Medications
What is it like to have ADHD?

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