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How To Stop Your Child With ADHD From Hitting Siblings

January 5, 2023
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    Is your child with ADHD hitting their siblings? Physical aggression in kids is tough to navigate, especially when it affects other family members, such as younger siblings. Some children may also exhibit violent behavior at school or in other settings.

    Kids with ADHD may be particularly prone to problematic behaviors such as hitting themselves and other people. Why is this the case, and what can parents do when a child is physically aggressive?

    In this article, we'll go over possible reasons for your child's behavior, managing anger in kids, and ways to stop your child from hitting their siblings. Then, we'll discuss how Joon can help.

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    Why Is My Child Hitting Their Siblings?

    Children with ADHD are more likely to display aggressive behavior. The physical aggression a child experiences could be towards themselves, other children, or adults. Research suggests that more than half of pre-adolescents with ADHD (combined presentation) show clinically significant aggression. Predominantly, impulsive aggression. Since many children with ADHD experience hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms, this connection makes sense. For most kids, the issue is one of self-control rather than wanting to hurt another person.

    Other factors can also play a role. In some instances, a child might meet the criteria for oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or another comorbid condition in addition to ADHD.

    Regardless of the cause, physical aggression is a problem. Thankfully, there are ways to manage anger and aggressive behavior in children.

    Managing Anger and Physical Aggression

    Anger is a human emotion. On its own, anger is not a bad thing. However, anger and other strong emotions do not need to be expressed by hitting another family member. Alongside physically aggressive behaviors, you may notice that your child's disproportionately angry. Like kids diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to experience physical aggression, they are also more likely to have problems with anger. So, what can you do as a parent?

    Before we dive into tips parents can use to stop their child from hitting other kids in the family, here are a couple ways to help with anger in kids.

    Identify emotions

    Some kids have trouble identifying their emotions. This can be even more likely for an ADHD child. For some children, trouble identifying emotions can pair with a tendency to experience an angry outburst without necessarily being able to say, "I'm angry."

    If kids can learn to identify emotions - and if they learn the steps to take to express their feelings when they notice that they're angry, frustrated, or otherwise emotional in a healthy way - it may help curb aggression.

    Provide alternatives for negative behaviors

    Once you teach a child the physical and emotional signs to use to identify that they are angry, provide alternative ways to navigate situations that cause distress. 

    For example, asking their sister for a toy nicely instead of taking it or hitting the other child, or taking a deep breath when they start to feel angry.

    Behavioral therapy, which we will go over later in this article, can also help kids with replacing aggressive behaviors with more helpful ones that do not hurt others.

    How To Stop Hitting

    There's usually a reason behind a child's behavior, and it doesn't make them a bad kid. That said, children must learn that hitting is inexcusable, and to cope and communicate in other ways. It is possible for kids to achieve self-control, behavior change, and a more positive mood state. Use the following tips to help your child stop hitting their siblings.

    Note: Joon promotes positive behavior in kids with ADHD. Designed for children ages 6-12 with ADHD and their parents, Joon is a new app that doubles as a video game. 

    Joon has an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars in the app store, with a total of over 6k reviews.

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    Identify the reason for aggressive behavior

    Do you know why your child is hitting their sibling? There are several ways to find out.

    You might talk with your child about why they hit their sibling and listen to what they have to say. Let children know that you want to help them so they do not hit siblings when they're angry and have another solution. 

    Writing down when your child experiences an angry outburst or engages in aggressive behavior and other pieces of relevant context could also help you notice a pattern. When does it happen most? After school? Before school? When a sibling gets attention?

    If a child is out of control and you do not know why - and you don't have any luck when you ask what's going on directly - this could be the way to go.

    For example, let's say that your child is a brand new older brother. They may not be used to having another child in the home. In that case, could your son's behavior be due to jealousy? Do they want more special time together?

    Look at all of the possibilities and see what connections you can make.

    Keep calm

    It can be difficult for families to remain calm when kids hit a sibling. When your child is hurt, your initial response might be frustration toward the child who engaged in hitting behavior. That said, it is crucial for adults to keep calm when they talk with a defiant child.

    It is important that parents model the behavior they want to see in a child. Getting angry not only models poor behavior, however. It is also ineffective or even harmful for most kids.

    Try Joon To Help

    Joon is a to-do app for children with ADHD and parents that doubles as a game. Parents sign up first and create a custom task list for their children. When a child completes their assigned tasks (also called quests), they get rewards that allow them to care for a virtual pet.

    School assignments, household chores, and other tasks are all examples of quests adults might add for their child. 90% of children who use Joon finish all of their tasks.

    Joon promotes self-esteem, independence, and positive behavior in kids with ADHD. Even better, it's backed by child psychologists, teachers, and occupational therapists.

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    Communicate the problem

    How do you get to a place where your child's willing to swap hitting siblings for another, healthier behavior when they're upset? Talk with your child about why hitting their siblings is a problem.

    Rather than yell "why'd you do that to your brother?" or "don't hit your little brother," tell your child the consequences of their actions. This can include both discipline and the fact that the other child could get hurt.

    While it may seem clear to you, explaining the consequences of hitting and the reason for your boundary against hitting is critical. Let them know that while it is okay to feel angry, there are different ways to navigate that anger.

    Have consequences in place

    Immediate consequences are ideal, especially for children with ADHD.

    There are several ways a family can provide consequences as a direct response to a child who hurts their siblings. For example, you may put a child in a time out as a form of discipline.

    Let kids know what the consequences will be and stick to them.

    Reward positive behaviors 

    In addition to setting clear consequences for kids, ensure you reward the behavior you want to see. Rewards for kids can be verbal (e.g., "you did a great job") or tangible.

    In many cases, establishing reward systems are helpful for families of children with ADHD. Options for reward systems include but aren't limited to sticker charts, items such as a small toy, experiences like seeing a friend or getting screen time, or an app like Joon that is designed for kids with ADHD.

    On the same note, make sure to highlight positive traits in all of your children. If one child gets praise but hears "your brother's behavior is bad," and the other child primarily gets punishment without praise, it could lead to more rivalry.

    Be empathetic 

    Often, children who face aggression feel out of control. They may not feel like they have a handle on their behavior. This isn't an excuse, nor does it mean that they can't be helped, but it is a fact for many kids. It is crucial to give a child empathy and love, frequently and clearly.

    When you talk with your child about why it's not okay to hit a sibling under any circumstances, let them know that you love them and are here to work with them. Communicate a no-tolerance policy and give your child affection at the same time.

    If a child feels singled out or as though they're being branded as a "bad kid," it could have further adverse consequences. Unconditional love while a child learns to handle anger, impulsivity, and aggression can make a major difference.

    Seek help for your child's behavior

    A licensed clinical psychologist, counselor, or child therapist near you who is able to provide behavioral therapy can help kids with aggressive behavior, including hitting.

    In behavioral therapy, kids learn effective coping strategies, communication strategies, and ways to both identify and express emotions. Therapy is shown to help children with ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, violent behavior, and related concerns gain self-control. It can improve quality of life, help families get along, and provide a child with the best kind of support for their needs.

    A mental health professional can also help children build self-esteem, decision-making skills, and other issues that a child diagnosed with ADHD may battle disproportionately. For young kids, parents may engage in parent training in behavior management.

    Often, kids with ADHD use a combination of therapy and medication to manage ADHD symptoms. For many kids, ADHD medication helps with behavioral symptoms. On the other hand, every child reacts to ADHD medication differently, and some deal with behavioral side effects.

    If ADHD medication side effects might play a role in your behavioral problems (if you notice an uptick in loss of control over anger once they start a new ADHD medication), discuss it with your child's prescriber.


    With ADHD, sibling relationships can be extra challenging at times. Especially if you're a single parent, or if behavioral problems are ongoing and out of control, it can be tiring to work to address problematic behaviors. Use self-care and remain consistent with your children.

    Kids with ADHD are significantly more likely to experience aggressive behavior. Aggression in kids may be directed toward themselves, other kids, parents, or other people in a child's life. Some kids engage in physically aggressive behavior only toward siblings, whereas others may continuously display aggression at school, home, and other contexts.

    There are ways to help kids manage anger and stop hitting their siblings. Identifying the reason for your child's behavior, communicating the problem, using proper discipline, and rewarding positive behavior can all be advantageous for aggressive kids.

    It is ideal to get expert advice and support for children so they have the full spectrum of care they need to communicate emotions, find positive ways to cope, and change their behavior. Behavioral therapy and other forms of treatment, such as medication, can be an important part of the process.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.