Unlocking ADHD writer Constance Thum explores reasons why ADHD disposes children to anger and provides some management tips.
Children can be prone to bouts of tantrums and fits of anger. While this is normal, parents should teach children anger management strategies and to express their feelings appropriately. ADHD children who struggle with self-control and impulsivity may find it especially difficult to control their anger and may lash out inappropriately or behave aggressively.
Reasons for Anger
A few reasons behind the anger of ADHD children may include the following (more information), but are not exhaustive:
- ADHD can cause children to be impulsive and hyperactive, appearing defiant and more likely to be involved in conflict (more information)
- Frustration about their ADHD condition
- Poor self-esteem and pent-up and/or accumulated anger
- Sensitive and more intense emotions
- Medication side effects
- Other ADHD related mood disorders or issues eg. anxiety, depression, etc.
A 2010 research study also found that ADHD children appeared to view school in a more hostile manner and had weaker coping mechanisms than non-ADHD children. While ADHD children and young adolescents may learn to repress their anger with age out of fear of punishment and scolding, internalising their emotions may be unhealthy for them; increasing the risk of explosive lash-outs and destructive expression. Adults should thus equip ADHD children with anger management strategies that would benefit their long-term development.
Anger Management Strategies for ADHD Children
Parents with ADHD children may consider the following tips to help neutralise anger while making their child feel understood:
- Encouraging children to engaging in physical exercise or sports as an emotional release
- Distracting children with games or other activities
- Teaching children to vocalise feelings in a calm, rational manner
- Heartfelt discussions to understand your child’s struggles
- Collaborative problem solving that focuses on negotiating with children rather than giving commands
- Reward systems and praise to reinforce good behaviour and dissuade bad behaviour
- Therapy for ADHD children with persistent, worsening anger issues
Parents should avoid sweeping anger issues under the rug and try to have a candid conversation with their child to attempt to understand the root of their anger. Parents should also remain calm and confident when managing anger and emotional outbursts from their ADHD children, while still being firm about enforcing appropriate, non-violent or non-aggressive behaviour.
For educators and schools, they may consider similar strategies and others such as
- Monitoring and taking notes on student behaviour for crafting intervention strategies
- Talks with parents to understand ADHD children’s habits and triggers
More importantly, adults should remember that practicing, acquiring, and mastering anger management skills is a continuous process that may continue through adulthood, not least as ADHD children are more impulsive and hyperactive. However, with consistent effort, the child can learn to have more positive and meaningful relationships with others, as well as become happier, calmer, and more in control.