Aggressive Behavior in ADHD Children

May 24, 2011

Aggression is one of the most complained about symptoms among parents of ADHD children.   It’s difficult to refrain from casting blame on either the child or the parent at times for the damaging and violent overreactions.  According to clinical psychologist Dr. Joseph M. Carver ADHD children behave this way because their brains are normally more excited and excitable than the average person.  Thus “when upset or angry, the neurochemical excitement of anger or distress is added to the already-present high level of aggression and excitability. Imagine being very angry or upset, then suddenly receiving an injection of stimulants. At that point, you’d be out of control, talking and yelling nonstop, posturing, and physically aggressive. The upset ADHD child rapidly goes from “hyper” to out of control.”

So what can a parent do about their child’s aggressive behavior? Dr. Lawrence Kutner suggests identifying the triggers to your child’s aggression, particularly if your child is a toddler or pre-schooler.  For example, you might take note that your child often becomes increasingly upset at a certain time of day, or perhaps in public areas.  Also, children tend to follow a certain pattern of behavior before they lose control.  Once you have determined the triggers for the aggressive behavior and can recognize the familiar patterns your child undergoes before he is about to lose control you can take the proper steps to remove your child from the environment before he explodes.  You can take him away from his music group (for example) for a few moments to regain composure.  As your child gets older he will learn more appropriate ways to cope with his frustrations.

 Spanking and verbal aggression passes on inappropriate messages and should be avoided at all costs.

 Older children and adolescents need to be taught the difference between aggression and assertiveness, according to Dr. Kutner.  He also points out that psychologists have found that both parents and older aggressive children benefit from learning to see the world through sunnier glasses as they tend to view their problems very negatively which exacerbates their frustrations and this makes it more difficult to evaluate improvement in the child’s situation.

As far as drugs are concerned researches at New York’s Stony Brook University School of Medicine have recently discovered (September 2010) that the trend in medicine to medicate ADHD children who act out aggressively with antipsychotic drugs might be a mistaken one.  The researches discovered that by  tweaking stimulant medications and combining it with behavioral therapy sessions, aggressive behavior often can be managed.

 Some experts in natural remedies are against treating children’s aggression with stimulant medications.  They feel this will simply stimulate children’s brains further and they opt for homeopathic remedies with ingredients like Hyoscyamus, Arsen iod, Tuberculinum.  They also recommend removing natural stimulants like sugar and caffeine from a child’s diet.

Mom’s Take:

Dealing with aggression is always difficult particularly with younger children and I have sometimes found myself at the end of my rope.  What I have learned is that is very important to try as hard as you can (it ain’t easy!) to separate yourself emotionally from the situation.  I know – when your child is having that tantrum in the middle of the super market and knocks over an entire shelf of eggs  he isn’t making this simple.  But taking a deep breathe and trying to distance yourself from the situation as much as possible will protect you from losing it as well.  Believe me – it looks a lot worse when both mother and child are having tantrums in the middle of the supermarket!