Every child throws the occasional tantrum, but for children with ADHD, these outbursts are often more frequent and harder to control, which makes parents feel powerless in helping them. The internal complexities of an ADHD child make it difficult to pinpoint the root of a tantrum, but identifying such triggers is critical in understanding what your child is trying to say.
It’s difficult for children with ADHD to regulate their emotional behavior. This, paired with a lack of focus and impulsivity, can create tantrums, often when barely provoked. There are many strong emotions that can trigger a tantrum, but the most common ones are disappointment, anger, and frustration.
Maybe they weren’t allowed to watch their favorite TV show, or their soccer game was canceled because of the weather, or they’re having difficulty keeping up with schoolwork. No matter the situation, it’s important to recognize that the root of an ADHD tantrum is often due to a child’s inability to process his or her emotions, wants, and needs. The best way to deal with it is to create an open line of communication: acknowledge what they are feeling and encourage them to express their emotions.As they express their feelings and emotions more openly, you will more easily recognize and help them cope with potential tantrum triggers.
Sometimes ADHD children can get overwhelmed by external or physical events, and they then turn to tantrums as a way of relieving stress or anxiety. These tantrums could be triggered by a variety of factors, from a noisy shopping mall to too much excitement at a birthday party. Such locations can exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD, such as the inability to concentrate or sit still.
If your child has had problems being in a certain environment in the past – whether due to its noise, visuals, or physical place – pay attention to the circumstances that triggered the tantrum and try to steer clear of similar areas. For situations where sensory overload may be unavoidable, try to clearly explain to your child beforehand what they are about to see, feel, or hear in order to reduce unfamiliarity. Provide incentives to encourage good behavior (“If you stay calm during the entire shopping trip, you can watch TV afterwards”) and, if all else fails, take them aside and practice breathing exercises to help them relax.
A tantrum could be a child’s way of calming themselves down or simply coping with a new environment, but it’s best to take preventative measures to ensure they have a safe and fun experience.
If you tend to lose your temper as a parent, your child – particularly if they have ADHD – may implicitly learn from you that throwing a tantrum is an appropriate way to behave. Shouting at your child during a tantrum may work as a short-term solution, but it can negatively affect their behavioral pattern long-term. Shouting only worsens the hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Children with ADHD may not at first consciously throw tantrums, but over time they might learn to use tantrums as a solution to a problem. Because they lack the emotional regulation needed to stay calm during stressful situations, it’s important for parents to lead by example and stay calm before, during, and after a tantrum. This will help children learn to adapt their behavior and become less reliant on using tantrums as a means of communication, and help parents find more positive and effective ways to discipline their children.
When you have a child with ADHD, tantrums are inevitable. However, learning to identify triggers and encouraging positive communication between you and your child can help mitigate the frequency and effects of ADHD-induced tantrums as your family moves forward. There are a wide variety of possible reasons behind your child’s tantrum, and understanding them is the first step to finding a solution for the future.