How to respond to my child’s extreme anger

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    • #40214
      Penny Williams

      This discussion was originally started by user dyang in ADDitude’s now-retired community. The ADDitude editors have included it here to encourage more discussion.


      My son at age 17 has developed extreme anger issues and I would like to hear any suggestions on how I should respond.  I am currently seeking counseling/therapy for him.

      This anger has been building over the course of this school year – he decided to stop taking his meds in his senior year, and consequently his grades have crashed.  Issues have intensified since a girl he adored has shunned him.

      His anger is not directed towards others — he has punched hollow core doors, thrown his phone against a wall, and has gotten so angry he has hit his head against walls.  My response so far has been to physically constrain him (not hit him, but wrap my arms around him until he calms down).  What else can I do ?

      Any ideas are greatly appreciated !

      Thank you,  Dave

    • #69037

      Children who have behavioral problems usually exhibit anger and violence. Thought it is very common it is not something that is normal. Parents should take immediate measures to curb such behavior and bring the child under control.

      This can be done at home or through external help from psychiatrists. However, there is a deeper reason why your child is being so violent and exhibiting anger. Most of the times the causes for such behavior patterns in the child is the parents themselves. If you display violence towards the child or there is violence in the marriage, the child is likely to pick up on such behavior patterns. Children learn what they see in their environment.

      The best possible way of helping an angry and defiant or impulsive child is through talking to the child in a calm and collected manner. There are some specific behavior techniques to help such children. First of all, figure out what your child’s problem is. If they have poor social skills, then help them to make friends and encourage them to mingle with people. When the child is angry, find the root cause of the anger and then solves it. Also let them know that they need not display such an extreme amount of violence. Children can get angry over trivial issues but they need not display violence for that. Teach them alternative techniques like breathing deeply or counting until ten if they are angry. Getting them into the habit of drinking water and relaxing is also a good technique to help them control their anger.

    • #69039

      Hello Mum,
      Your son has ADHD,its alright many people do but his uncontrollable anger shows that he does not feel loved and understood.He needs to feel that what he has is accepted by his mom and people around him.Don’t treat him like he has a condition or something, even so better make him socialise and hangout with other kids who share the same ADHD hence they’ll get along better cz they can relate and your son will feel happier with them.Donot pester him for medcines,but give him your time, love and attention.Make him feel that more than his grades you are concerned about his well being and happiness.Spend quality time with him,make him travel,socialise and have fun,rest will follow and his resistance to treatment will end to.As far as the broken relationship is concerned ,make him talk to you or a proper psychotherapist so he can face,accept and confront those emotions and let go to move on in his life.Most of the kids with ADHD are way smarter than other kids ,they just need to be loved,understood and cared for patiently and most of all they need to be accepted for who they are.Make him talk about things.Communication is the key to deal with anger issues.

    • #71260

      It sounds like his anger is the result of emotional dysregulation. I’d consider behavioral therapy before he turns 18 and possibly ages out/becomes ineligible. He should be able to learn some coping skills and techniques to manage his anger better and regulate his emotions.

      If you point out that this onset of anger might be from stopping medication, do you think you could convince him to get back on it?

    • #71546

      I suggest reviewing the webinar by William Dodson, MD (How ADHD Shapes Your Perceptions, Emotions & Motivation) on this website. Dodson’s discussion of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) directly relates to anger issues exhibited by ADHD persons.

    • #71621

      Maybe look at Doug Noell’s work. He has some techniques that can be helpful, based on affect labeling. The basics:

      Never use I statements (Like, “I understand that you’re angry.”). Instead, just label the emotion. “You’re really angry.” And let them respond to that, and then continue to affect label as the response changes.

      Yeah, I’m angry! Because you never care what I think!
      So.. you feel disrespected, because you feel I don’t listen to you. (etc.)

      Sometimes you get it wrong, and they reject it (I’m not angry! I’m frustrated because I can’t get you to listen to me!). if that happens just try again and eventually you’ll hit the right note.

      Never express it as a question. Also, it should not be seen as a conversation. It’s just a technique to deescalate the aggression so that a conversation can take place. If you think of it as a conversation it will feel very awkward.

      He uses this method to deescalate conflicts between violent offenders in prisons, and also teaches it to parents with difficult kids. I just mentioned some of the basics to give you an idea of the technique, but I think it would be worth reading some of his material or contacting him. He’s very responsive to contact and questions.

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