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Parenting

Why Is My ADHD Child So Angry? Causes and How Parents Can Help

Updated
November 7, 2022
Table of Contents

    Anger-related concerns are prevalent among children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It's not easy to see your child angry. Sometimes, a child's anger can even be scary for parents. So, what can you do?

    In this article, we'll discuss what to do when your child with ADHD is angry, whether or not ADHD can lead to outbursts of anger, and what helps with ADHD anger. Finally, we'll cover how the Joon app can help you calm your child.

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    Can ADHD Cause Outbursts Of Anger?

    Kids with ADHD often experience emotions more intensely. At times, this increased emotional intensity means that when they feel frustrated, anxious, or distressed, find a task challenging, or don't want to participate in a certain activity, an ADHD child may have angry outbursts or constantly swear. Similarly, ADHD children can be more sensitive to rejection or face other concerns related to emotion regulation. Why exactly does this happen with ADHD?

    First, ADHD symptoms themselves can play a role. For example, hyperactivity/impulsivity can lead to impulsive aggression and trouble managing behavior. It can feel like to an ADHD child the world around you doesn't move fast enough, and sometimes, a child acts before they have the time to think. Inattention symptoms may frustrate a child, too. Kids with ADHD might feel misunderstood or struggle in other areas. ADHD is a complex disorder. Knowing and understanding not only the external symptoms would help manage it properly. Read more on ADHD iceberg to see the complete picture of what it means to have hidden symptoms.

    There are times when other conditions, like oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), play a role. In conjunction with conditions like anxiety and depression, oppositional defiant disorder frequently occurs alongside ADHD, which is why this may be relevant to a child's defiant behavior if they have an ADHD diagnosis. 

    Learn more about ODD on the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website

    Speaking of anxiety and depression, there are times when these conditions can come with irritability. If you are concerned your child may have an additional medical or mental health condition, make sure to speak with their pediatrician. Sixty percent or more of children with ADHD also experience comorbid mental health diagnoses. 

    With all of that said, if you're concerned by your child's behavior, some things can be done. Angry outbursts can be managed with the right care, even in children with ADHD.

    How Do You Deal With An Angry Child With ADHD?

    Parents of children who struggle with anger or defiance need to take care of themselves, too. Make sure you have support from other people, including professionals such as mental health therapists. Working with a therapist gives parents a place to express their concerns without their child present, and it can be helpful in addressing feelings of guilt or fear. If you feel like your ADHD child is ruining your life, talk to a therapist.

    It is also vital to address your child's anger rather than ignore it. If you ignore the anger or let a child have their way, the problems could worsen over time. The good news is that there's a range of ways parents can help with ADHD anger in children. 

    What Helps With ADHD Anger?

    It's important to have a number of different tools on hand to help your child with ADHD cope with anger. What works for one family or parent will vary from the next, and trial and error may be necessary, but don't give up hope. In time, you will find what works. Now, let's talk about tips you can use to help curb a child's anger.

    Make sure they get enough sleep

    Lack of sleep can increase behavioral problems and make children more irritable. It is also very common for children with ADHD to struggle with sleep. In fact, an ADHD child is far more likely to live with insomnia than their peers without ADHD. While it might not solve the problem entirely, having a consistent sleep routine and getting enough sleep can help you set your child up for success.

    Employ self-soothing techniques

    Various coping skills can help soothe anger. Kids and adults all need to learn what works for them when it comes to anger so that they can remain calm and regulate emotions when they feel angry. Here are some self-soothing tips to teach your child:

    • Deep breathing.
    • Learning to excuse oneself when angry.
    • Physical activity.
    • Fidget or stress-relief toys.
    • Progressive muscle relaxation.
    • Guided meditation for kids.
    • Punching a pillow or screaming into a pillow.
    • TIPP exercises.

    Pick self-soothing techniques for your child based on their age group and personal needs. Additionally, make sure that you talk about your child's feelings with them. When coping with your own emotions, model healthy coping skills.

    Try Joon App to Calm Your Child's Anger

    Although Joon doesn't target anger in children or a child's outbursts specifically, it does help kids stick to routines that promote well-being, encourage positive behavior, and complete tasks - often, more voluntarily at that. These advantages can make daily life easier for your family and may take away from some of the difficulty, including tantrums or outbursts, that might result when you ask a child to complete certain activities without the game. So, how does Joon work?

    How Joon works

    Joon is a new kind of digital game designed specifically for ADHD kids and their parents. In the game, kids earn rewards by completing tasks set by their parents. With the rewards kids earn by completing tasks, they are able to take care of their virtual pet, called a Doter, and further explore the world of Joon. Children get to choose what their pet looks like. Although it may take some time to see habit and behavior change, some of the helpful effects of Joon are nearly immediate. 

    Parents download the app first (here's a 7-day free trial), and then, kids can get started. Currently, parents must download Joon via iPhone, but kids can connect with a range of compatible devices, including Amazon and Android devices. 

    If you are an Android user, join our Android waiting list.

    Benefits of Joon

    As discussed, Joon encourages kids to complete routine tasks and can, in turn, support positive behavior. Here are some of the other benefits of Joon:

    • Joon promotes independence. Joon provides an incentive for children with ADHD to complete tasks that they may not otherwise initiate on their own or when told.
    • Joon can improve family life. Many parents who leave reviews for Joon say that the app has helped to improve their parent-child relationship.
    • Joon may help kids listen to authority figures. The Joon app encourages positive behavior in the sense that it motivates children to complete tasks and makes said tasks more fun.
    • Joon can boost self-esteem. Kids feel good about themselves when they accomplish tasks, get rewards, and get to care for their virtual pet in the game, which can aid confidence and self-esteem.
    • Joon is customizable. Parents pick the exact tasks they want their children to complete. You can even add your own.
    • Joon is safe for kids. Joon does not collect your child's personal information.

    All of the tasks a child completes with Joon are positive, leading to an increase in well-being and quality of life. Currently, Joon has over 3.5k reviews in the app store and is rated 4.7 out of 5 stars. 

    To learn more about what parents have to say about Joon, read the reviews on our website or in the app store.

    Get started with Joon

    Signing up for Joon is simple, and the game is affordable, too. After your free-trial period, you can opt for a monthly or annual plan. Click here to download the Joon app and get your 7-day free trial.

    Talk through the angry feelings

    First, you might give a child time to cool down using self-soothing techniques. Then, talk with your child about their feelings. Don't shame your child with ADHD for their anger. Shaming will just make your child feel worse. Since kids with ADHD are emotionally sensitive, it only takes one negative thought for them to fall into what we call shame spiral. Shame spiral happens when a negative feeling or thought goes on and on like a cycle. This often leads to causes depression and anxiety.

    The best thing to do in this situation is to approach the topic calmly and with curiosity. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't address outbursts. It's important to let them know that potentially harmful behavior isn't okay and to provide alternative options (e.g., punching a pillow, taking deep breaths, or excusing themself until they can speak calmly). However, managing anger often requires a mix of awareness and learning to identify emotions before they get out of control, so you want to let your child know that it is okay to feel their feelings and talk about them rather than use discipline alone.

    Ensure that your child feels heard. When you discuss emotions gently, attentively, and without shame, a child's more apt to feel like they're safe to talk it out, and it may be the first step toward the implementation of better coping tools.

    Pursue behavior therapy for ADHD

    Behavior therapy is highly recommended for kids with ADHD in combination with ADHD medication. It can help with the aforementioned coping skills as well as noticing emotions before they get out of hand, which in turn supports emotional regulation long-term. Therapy options for kids with ADHD include therapy for parents or individual therapy for the child.

    Therapy for parents of kids with ADHD

    In some types of therapy for kids with ADHD, parents work with a therapist to learn therapeutic techniques that they can use with their child at home. Parent-child interaction therapy is one example. In parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), parents learn child-centered interaction skills and behavior management skills. PCIT is best suited for parents of kids between the ages of two and seven. Parent training in behavior management is another type of therapy to consider, and it is appropriate for parents of kids aged twelve or younger.

    Mental health professionals who offer these techniques play an important role in empowering parents and giving them research-backed skills to employ.

    Therapy for kids with ADHD

    In other types of therapy for kids with ADHD, the child is the one who sees a therapist regularly. Often, this will occur in the form of weekly appointments. Play therapy combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help younger ADHD kids with anger, whereas talk therapy in the form of CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), or another appropriate modality may be most appropriate for older kids and teens. Therapy can aid self-control, promote social skills, combat ODD behaviors, support emotion regulation, and help with ADHD symptoms. There are also FDA approved medication for kids with ODD and ADHD symptoms.

    When you look for a therapist for your child to see one-on-one, look for someone who specializes in ADHD and talk with the therapist beforehand to see if they've helped kids with anger management in the past. For the best outcome, you want to find someone who is experienced in these challenges.

    Use rewards and discipline

    As discussed, you want to address emotions and teach emotional regulation rather than employ discipline alone. However, positive reinforcement for good behavior and consistent consequences for poor behavior also matters and can be particularly valuable for ADHD kids who destroys things or might face concerns like impulsive aggression. Give children clear instructions, and let them know upfront what behavior will be rewarded, as well as what the punishment for specific unfavorable behaviors (e.g., yelling or hitting parents) will be. Most importantly, make sure that you follow through with what you say you'll do.

    Discover more behavior management advice for ADHD children here.

    Focus on predictability and routines

    Notice what tends to upset your child. Sometimes, you might find that specific things tend to trigger your child's anger or negative behavior. Triggers for out-of-control meltdowns might include certain tasks (e.g., going to school), instructions from authority figures (e.g., "put your tablet away" or "get dressed"), being tired, or something else. Consistent, predictable routines can help in the sense that your child will know what to expect, and in time, there may be less of a fight.

    What if your child has trouble with routines and task initiation? Apps like Joon can help kids with ADHD stick to beneficial daily routines, as well as initiate and follow through on tasks.

    About

    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.

    About

    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.