Temper tantrums and ADHD: is there a link?

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Scream and moan. Throwing toys. Kicking the floor, furniture, or maybe even you.

If you are the parent or caregiver of a young child, you are probably familiar with these common signs of a temper tantrum, perhaps a little more than you would like.

Toddlers and young children often respond with temper tantrums and temper tantrums because they don’t know how to put their overwhelming emotions into words and meet their needs more productively. Most children begin to understand the ability to regulate their emotions by the time they are around 5 years old, and the seizures stop.

Of course, some children continue to have frequent and severe fits and fits even after they start school. Extreme or aggressive temper tantrums can have a number of causes – we’ll cover a few common ones below – but they’re quite common with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Maybe your child is already diagnosed with ADHD. Perhaps you are just starting to suspect illness as a possible cause of their frequent attacks. Either way, we’re here to help.

Read on for details on ADHD-related temper tantrums, as well as tips for coping and finding support.

Temper tantrums can cause a lot of distress for you and your child. But while they can be somewhat difficult to deal with, especially when they’re performing in public or when you’re already late, it often helps to know that they’re just a normal part of development.

In other words, it’s not unusual for kids to have occasional tantrums during their toddler and preschool years. These seizures usually involve many of the same signs and behaviors whether or not they are related to ADHD.

There are a few key signs that can help you recognize when your child’s temper tantrums are going beyond what is typical. These signs often include tantrums that:

  • remain common after the age of 5
  • happen 5 or more times a day on a regular basis
  • continue for more than 15 minutes
  • involve destruction of personal belongings or very aggressive behavior towards oneself or others
  • involve extreme anger or challenge towards caregivers and other adults

Experts don’t consider temper tantrums to be a symptom of ADHD in so many words. On the contrary, you might think of them as a product of these symptoms.

Common triggers for temper tantrums in children include:

  • physical discomfort – a hungry, tired, or sick child is often more likely to have a blast
  • anger, frustration, fear and other overwhelming emotions
  • sensory overstimulation
  • the inability to ask for or get what they want
  • a desire for attention
  • a previous successful tantrum – if it worked once, they’ll probably try it again

The main symptoms of ADHD can easily interact with these triggers, adding to their agitation and causing an explosion. This is one of the reasons why a pattern of frequent temper tantrums and outbursts often appears with ADHD.

Symptoms of hyperactivity

These symptomsmay fuel your child’s restlessness and boredom. They can get frustrated and irritated very quickly and find it difficult to sit still or quiet:

  • while waiting for an appointment
  • during a storytime session at the library, they don’t find it interesting
  • when you try to make a phone call

Symptoms of inattention

These symptoms can make it difficult to concentrate on repetitive tasks and activities that require a lot of concentration. Here, too, your child could:

  • get bored quickly and have trouble concentrating
  • feeling frustrated when they can’t concentrate
  • get upset if he has trouble understanding what you are asking him to do

If they seem very distracted and you assume they’re not listening, you might naturally feel a little bored and frustrated. Feeling your disapproval can increase their stress, especially when they are already doing their best.

Symptoms of impulsivity

These symptomsmay affect your child’s ability to deal with impulses and emotions.

Children with ADHD tend to have a harder time controlling their impulses and controlling their behaviors.

They could:

  • do or say things without thinking
  • expressing anger and irritation outside when things don’t go as planned
  • become even more upset and frustrated when adults punish or misunderstand their behavior

Maybe you need them to pick up their toys, play quietly in their bedroom, or brush your teeth. They want to chase the dog around the house or play on their tablet. When you try to redirect them with a callback, they may have a fight or start a tantrum, especially if you inflict a consequence for not listening, such as removing the tablet.

Whatever the source of your child’s temper tantrums, an effective response can go a long way towards improving the situation and helping you both weather the storm.

Keep these tips in mind:

Speak calmly

It’s okay to feel upset and frustrated when your child has a tantrum, but raising your voice will usually only make it worse.

  • Even when you’re about to get angry, try to keep your tone even.
  • If they dispute a specific rule, don’t argue. Instead, repeat the rule firmly, but not with anger.
  • Avoid trying to reason with him during a temper tantrum, as this usually won’t get you very far. Wait until their distress has subsided and they can talk through things.

Find more tips for staying calm and continuing to be a positive parent.

Use positive discipline

Yelling, spanking, and slamming things probably won’t end the tantrum. Anger reactions and harsh discipline are more likely to:

  • scare your child
  • leave them feeling that you don’t like them
  • teach them to react with aggression

A bossy approach to parenting, coupled with consistent positive parenting tactics can help reduce outbursts, not to mention your child’s well-being.

To try:

  • offer positive attention, especially when you feel they are struggling
  • praise better choices, like saying “No, thank you” instead of shouting “No! “
  • communicate expectations and rules in clear and simple language
  • explain the consequences of breaking the rules and reinforce them in a coherent way
  • offer compassion and understanding, not criticism, when they make mistakes

Learn more about the benefits of positive discipline.

Ignore the crisis

Children don’t always have temper tantrums on purpose. But explosions often become more frequent when they realize that this behavior gives them what they want. After all, they still haven’t learned more useful options for dealing with overwhelming emotions.

When you ignore the explosion, they start to learn that temper tantrums won’t work. This often helps stop the seizure before it really starts. But it also encourages them to explore other ways to meet their needs.

Tips for successfully ignoring

  • Make sure there is nothing in the room that could hurt them.
  • Continue what you were doing, without paying attention.
  • As long as they stay safe, avoid staring at them, asking them to stop, or giving them positive or negative attention while the crisis continues.

The purpose of ignorance is to stop the tantrum (or other unnecessary behavior). Once they’ve calmed down enough to tell you how they’re feeling or ask for help, responding to their communication efforts can help reinforce that positive behavior.

Children with ADHD can still learn to share their emotions, ask for what they need, and overcome their frustrations without breaking down.

Your advice can make a big difference in their ability to learn these skills and achieve them when they feel distressed.

When it comes to avoiding tantrums before they break out, research suggests that the acronym CALM may help:

  • Communicate. Use a calm tone and ask them to describe their feelings. You can try showing them pictures or giving them examples, such as “tired”, “crazy” or “hungry” for younger children, or “bored” and “upset” for older children.
  • To assist. After making sure all of their basic needs are met, offer attention and distractions when you notice the first signs of boredom or frustration. You could, for example, suggest a game or an art project, take them for a walk, or involve them in what you are doing, if possible.
  • Listen. Encourage them to share their feelings. If they feel frustrated with a lack of control, try to allow them to make more of their own choices, within reason. This could mean letting them pick out their own clothes, even if they stay in their pajamas all day, or running around the garden and getting dirty instead of coloring or quietly looking at books.
  • Maintain a routine. Sticking to a regular routine as much as possible can reduce unexpected frustrations and create a sense of stability they can depend on. You can’t always avoid disruption, of course, but having a back-up plan for snacks, naps and bedtime, and other routine activities while you’re away from home can make things easier. for you two.

If your child’s temper tantrums seem frequent or excessive, it is always worth contacting a mental health professional, such as a child psychologist or family therapist.

Many factors other than ADHD can contribute to temper tantrums, including:

These problems can appear on their own, but they can also occur at the same time as ADHD. A therapist can offer more guidance by identifying the specific source, which can make it easier to support your child in times of frustration and distress.

A therapist specializing in the treatment of ADHD may:

Depending on your child’s symptoms, healthcare providers may also recommend exploring medication options with the help of a psychiatrist.

Temper tantrums are not unusual in early childhood, and most children will likely have some emotional outbursts. That said, sometimes extreme or violent tantrums can indicate a more serious problem, such as ADHD, ASD, or a mood disorder.

When your child has disruptive temper tantrums on a daily basis, a therapist can help you determine the possible causes and teach them new skills for dealing with distress and defusing them before they start.


Crystal Raypole writes for Healthline and Psych Central. His areas of interest include Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sexual positivity, and mental health, as well as books, books and more. In particular, she is committed to helping reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues. She lives in Washington with her son and an adorably recalcitrant cat.


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