ADHD Children: Aggression Within Social Circles

What makes my sweet child so aggressive at times?

Have you ever asked yourself, Why is my child a bully to other kids? Why am I constantly saying, “Keep your hands to yourself!”, or, “Don’t hit your brother, he’s not your punching bag!”?

According to Dr. Barkley, clinical scientist and researcher in the field of ADHD, it is due to the Emotional Dysregulation facet of ADHD, which refers to deficits in inhibiting and regulating emotions. This facet of ADHD also contributes to the propensity to develop ODD. Emotional Self-Regulation is the ability to manage your behavior in relation to the events that happen in your life.

Another expert in this field, Dr. Naomi Steiner, states that individuals with ADHD have a problem with executive functioning skills, of which Emotional Self-Regulation is a key component. This, along with a lack of will, says Steiner, contributes to the “blow ups” and outbursts individuals with ADHD display. Dr. Steiner goes into more detail in her webinar posted on the ADDitude website. Click on her link above to watch, or see her reference resource at the end of this article. Play Attention was the neurofeedback intervention used in those studies referenced in Dr. Steiner’s webinar

Play Attention was developed to help with these kinds of difficulties through the development of cognitive skill and behavior shaping. To learn more about our behavior shaping program attend an upcoming webinar.

In conclusion, let us leave you with some helpful information to better understand and address aggressive behaviors:

Why can’t we be friends?

Kids with ADHD are often isolated by their aggressive behavior. They miss out on having a best friend they can tell their deepest secrets to. They miss out on being invited to parties and get-togethers. They don’t get to experience the sleepovers outdoors in the teepee Dad made and running for the house due to things that went bump in the night (when it was only the raccoons raiding the trash cans). The aggressive behavior leads to fewer opportunities to practice social skills, which can lead to further negative behavior such as bullying. But it’s not always apparent to the child that these behaviors are negative, so take time to discuss which behaviors are appropriate and why. Do some role playing with your ADHD child. Make them a co-star in the act with you. Teach them how to form a friendship, how to bond, and start by focusing on little things.

Teach them that it’s rude to interrupt conversations or cut in line. You can role play being the naughty child. Exhibit rude behavior and push ahead of the line. Let your child explain to you what is wrong with your behavior, and how it made him feel. By turning the tables, your child will learn the social cues more quickly. Then, try a play date in which your child can use what they’ve learned. If that goes well, try a sleepover and expand social experiences from there. Remember to always provide your child with lots of positive praise when correct social behavior is observed.

While these are things you can do as a parent, Play Attention can dramatically augment this by helping your ADHD child develop social interaction skills. Ask your Play Attention advisor about our Social Skills program. 800-788-6786

Why can’t you keep your hands to yourself?

Parents of ADHD children worry about their kid being bullied at school. But some children with ADHD are bullies. According to a recent study, a child with ADHD is three times more likely to bully other kids than a child without the condition. A lot of times parents do not even see the bullying because it happens outside of the home.

If you are informed that this is the case with your child, it is important to stay calm. Do not accuse your child, but instead have a conversation. For example: “That was your teacher on the phone, and she said you were seen pushing Johnny on the playground. What’s your side of the story?” Don’t be surprised if the child admits nothing and shows no remorse. It is often the case that they simply don’t understand that there was anything wrong with that behavior. Also children often fear consequences if they readily admit to something that they suddenly perceive as a fault—which will happen if they’re being accused.

Often a good strategy to get to the truth of the matter is to, again, stay calm and perhaps even make light of the situation. If your child no longer feels that you are “mad”, they are more likely to open. Make it an environment/conversation in which the child feels safe, and you increase the likelihood of getting the facts.

Afterwards, be sure to make user of your child’s empathy to help them understand why what they did was wrong. For example, “What you’re telling me you did to Johnny is the same thing that big kid at school did to you last week. How did that make you feel? …well, that’s the same way Johnny felt when you did it to him.”

This is the kind of intervention strategy suggested by Robert Sege, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine. He’ll think twice before he does it again.­­­

Don’t hit your brother!

Chill out, stay cool. It’s not easy to stay calm when your ADHD child has just punched a playmate for the umpteenth time. But do your best. The next time your child lashes out, discipline them by demonstrating appropriate behavior. Speak calmly but firmly, rather than shouting (or spanking). Try empathy not sympathy. Let your child know that you understand how hard it is to control aggression. Once they calm down, say something like, “You seemed to be angry because your friend won the game” or, “I know you get angry when other children tease you, but hitting will only hurt your friendships.” Listen carefully to what they say in response so you can better provide support. Ask for suggestions. Telling your child things like, “Stop it, you’re bothering me” may not do the trick. In emotionally charged situations, ADHD kids have trouble recalling phrases like that. Instead, ask your child what he thinks he can do to control his aggression.

Yes we can change your mind! –Play Attention

Resources
Dr. Barkley: http://www.ptscoaching.com/articles/does-adhd-have-to-lead-to-oppositional-defiant-disorder/
Dr. Naomi Steiner: http://www.additudemag.com/RCLP/sub/11451.html
Play Attention Cognitive Games: http://www.playattention.com/play-attention-cognitive-games/
Play Attention Improved Behavior/Social Skills: http://www.playattention.com/solution/behavior/
Bullying, Anger, and Other Social Issues for Children with ADHD: http://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/bullying-anger-social-issues#1–ADDitude: http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/763-2.html
Role Playing: http://www.education.com/reference/article/role-playing-behavior-management/
–Play Attention: http://www.playattention.com/

1 Comments

  1. Maya says:

    Emotional Regulation issues are common with people with ADHD, however, aggression is not part of ADHD. You may also be aware that Dr. Barkley has wanted emotional regulation to be part of the ADHD symptoms in the DSM. He has not been successful. Everyone with ADHD are not aggressive. I think articles like this one only promotes the notion that it is not the person’s fault — blame it on ADHD. Not true. As I said a lot of people with ADHD are not aggressive. These kinds of articles with blanket notions of the disorder is very unfair to those that do not have these issues. There are things you need to teach a child that is aggressive: 1. teach him the words for how he feels; 2. watch him and teach him his triggers; 3. Teach him what to do instead. The best thing may be for him to withdraw to a safe place to cool down, then he can express his concerns with words in a calm voice. All this needs training before he tries to use it on his friends/classmates. Also if he knows what it feels like to be sad, mad, scared etc. he can more easily understand how others feel = learn empathy. When you coach a child NEVER use negatives i.e. “don’t run in the house” s/b “walk”, “Don’t yell in the house” s/b “talk”. When you use negatives your child has to translate it to the positive, which is a lot harder than to be told what to do. Asking a child what he can do to control his aggression is likely to fail, he does not know the answer to that, It is up to the caregiver to help him solve these issues. You are right about waiting until the child calms down before you address the issue. The” you seemed to be angry” probably s/b “I know it is hard to lose a game” making it more neutral will help the child deal with it better as you are not accusing him of anything.

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