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How to Deal With ADHD Tantrums in Children


Parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) know that their little ones can act out in many different ways. Sometimes they can endanger themselves with impulsive behavior, or they can do harm to others by hitting or other forms of aggression. And they can throw tantrums, fits of rage amounting to impromptu emotional outbursts.

There are many reasons why kids with ADHD act out in such ways. Children with ADHD lack understanding and patience. Because they are kids, they are still learning how to express themselves. Also, these little ones can easily be overwhelmed by external stimulus, such as excitement or noises. This can make it hard for them to stay calm when under stress.

When a child has a tantrum, especially when lots of people are around, parents seldom know how to respond. A typical parental response may include vacillation from one end of the spectrum to the other. They may play it down and avoid conflict or respond harshly by punishing them and expressing anger.

Sailing the rough seas of tantrums can be a daunting challenge. Many parents may wonder, “What will work with my child?”

Below are some expert strategies that parents may find helpful in dealing with tantrums:

Focus on the source or trigger of your child’s tantrum. If you can find the source of the tantrum, you can work towards changing it or avoiding it. Your child may be hungry, tired, or experiencing strong emotions they do not know how to express.

Clearly set consequences ahead of time. Before a tantrum begins, explain to your child that there will be consequences for misbehavior. Warning them ahead of time will allow them to understand an outcome for their behavior.

Give reminders. Kids with ADHD can have difficulty with transitions, such as going to bed or turning off the TV. Things that are pleasurable, such as playtime activities, are especially hard to stop. Reminding your child 30, 15, and 5 minutes ahead of time, for example, will work to stave off outbursts and help them to learn the protocol.

Communicate openly with your child. Empathize with your child and be calm. Let them know you understand their feelings and encourage them to express their emotions with words rather than actions, so you can better understand their plight.

Create a distraction for your child. A distraction may work, especially for younger kids. Change the subject and talk about something unrelated to the source of upset, such as returning home to play with toys.

Put your child in a time-out.  When all else fails, a time-out may work. Give the child time to be alone and reflect on his/her actions. He should cool off and can come out of the time-out after this happens. They should be allowed to keep objects that promote health coping such as a toy or stuffed animal.

Ignore the tantrum. Even if you are in the middle of a store, let them have the tantrum. Sometimes the best reaction is non-reaction. The child may be seeking attention and even negative attention is attention and gives a “payoff” for the behavior. Avoiding this may shorten the duration of the tantrum.

Avoid spanking. Corporal punishment usually escalates the bad behavior and also sets the tone that it is okay to hit people. It adds fuel to the fire and nobody wins.

Offer compliments for self-control. Praise good behavior and self-control, as kids with ADHD respond well to positive reinforcement.

It is not wise to diagnose your child with any condition. That should be left up to trained medical professionals. However, you can visit the National Institute of Mental Health website  in order to determine if there is cause for concern.


Works Cited

“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” National Institute for Mental Health, n.d. Web. 14 May 2013.

Tartakovsky, Margarita. “ADHD & Kids: 9 Tips to Tame Tantrums | Psych Central.” Psych Central, n.d. Web. 14 May 2013.

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Written by

Kevin Giles is a product of Santa Cruz, CA – the stoner capitol of the world. A born again Christian, Kevin loves his Lord Jesus and believes that his purpose in life is determined by God. He first entered drug recovery at the age of 19, suffering from an addiction to marijuana. He is a recent graduate of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, where he earned his Master’s degree in Christian Ministry. Passionate about God’s Word, he aspires to become a pastor or missionary. Kevin has also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Monterey Bay. His interests include traveling, movies, golf, fitness and reading. He also enjoys being outdoors as well as spending time with friends and family. Kevin’s faith, education and life experience give him a unique perspective on addiction, recovery and spirituality.

Filed under: Conditions and Disorders · Tags: ADHD, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, parenting, Pediatric Mental Illness

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