Meltdowns & Anger

ADHD Playground Behavior

“When my 8-year-old son, who has ADHD, gets angry with classmates in an unstructured environment (like a playground), he will immediately push someone. I have offered just walking away or putting his hands in his pockets and taking a deep breath. What other steps can I suggest as an alternative?”

Unstructured situations can be a challenge for children with ADHD. Your suggestions for alternative behaviors sound excellent. In addition, you may want to help him learn to internalize better control and be better able to go on “automatic pilot” when a difficult situation pops up in such an unstructured setting.

It may be helpful to write down what it is that he gets angry about each time on a chart to see if you can restructure or resolve any of the issues.

You may also want to practice in advance through role-play or visualization so that appropriate responses can become more automatic. When you do something repeatedly in practice, it is more likely to occur when the situation pops up. Perhaps you could also use cue cards with him before playing to serve as a prompt to help him remember to control his anger.

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He may also find an appropriate anger venting strategy helpful when he comes home such as hitting tennis balls or punching a punching bag or pillow. Another strategy would be to help structure those unstructured situations as much as possible or at least minimize the amount of time he spends in those situations for now.

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