Ask the Experts

Q: How Can I Teach My Son to Better Manage His Anger?

For many children with ADHD, there is only hot or cold — enraged or calm. And as they age, those bouts of anger become more and more frightening and overwhelming if our kids don’t begin to acquire self-moderation and self-calming skills. Here are four rules to get you started.

Q: “My son suffers from terrible anger. He yells and throws things in rage, then apologizes and blames himself. How can I help him manage his anger? I try to allow him to calm down, but the anger doesn’t seem to subside. It’s scary and I hate to think he’s so mad all the time.” — Beau’sMamma

Hi Beau’sMamma:

I have to say that I grappled with answering this question since I’m not a medical professional and do not want to give you advice about your child’s explosive behavior that is incorrect, or worse, harmful. However, I have worked with many families that struggle with managing this type of behavior. And most feel alone, confused, and without guidance. This issue is more prevalent than you might think, and I hope by shining a light on it, other parents will seek the help they need. So, if you are concerned about taking the right path to help your son, please consider seeking professional help. This way your questions and concerns can be fully addressed.

With that being said, here are a few strategies to try.

  1. Go over routines so your son knows exactly what to expect. The practice of previewing and reviewing helps kids feel safe, so they can control their emotions a bit more easily.
  2. Try to spend some time every day (15 to 30 minutes) with your son doing anything (within reason) that he suggests. I have found in my work over the years that limits and boundaries are a common source of explosive behavior. Giving your son 30 minutes a day where he can “set the rules” can easily make him feel more in control of his environment.
  3. Choices. Choices. Wherever possible, try asking questions like, “Do you want to start your homework at 4:14 or 4:28?” or “Do you want spaghetti or chicken for dinner?” You get the idea. And a tip within a tip? Try to limit the open-ended questions. I find that simple choices are easier for the brain to manage and less likely to cause decision fatigue (which could lead to outbursts).
  4. Be crystal clear on the rules in your home. I can’t stress this enough. Hitting, punching, throwing things, etc., should be non-negotiables. So be empathetic to your child’s emotions, but set limits accordingly.

Good luck!

[Free Parenting Resource: Manage Your Child’s Anger]

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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