In Part One of my series on ADHD and aggression we talked about some of the possible contributing factors to your child’s aggressive outbursts. Some of these factors may include anxiety, an inability to deal with anger and frustration, impulsivity, sensory processing difficulties, and difficulty with understanding consequences. No matter the cause of your child’s aggression most parents agree that they want to stop this behavior. A child who is aggressive will have great difficulty at school, making friends, and fitting into most social situations. This is a behavior you need to act upon quickly so that it does not escalate to the point where your child loses control and hurts someone.
The following are some suggestions of how to decrease aggressive behavior.
Note: (Use discretion in how you use this information. What will work for one child may not work for another. Your child’s age, diagnoses, temperament, and communication skills all play a huge factor in how to best help your child. What may work for decreasing aggression in a toddler may be very different for treating a six foot tall teen who feels rage and is acting upon that emotion. You always need to tailor your treatment plan for the unique needs of your child.)
1. Determine the conditions or settings where most of the aggressive behavior occurs.
In my previous post we talked about doing an A-B-C recording where you write down the antecedents-behaviors-and consequences for the aggressive behaviors you observe. It usually only takes a little bit of time to figure out some patterns of when your child acts out. For example you may find that your child shows more aggression during unstructured times at school such as recess or waiting for classes to begin. It may be a situation where these times need to be more controlled or structured for your child. In this instance your child could be paired with a buddy during these times, a peer who gets along with your child and can assist him or her with the schedule. Your child could be given a list of fun activities to complete during those times when there is less formal structure. The teacher could enlist your child as an aide to help with putting away equipment or setting up the classroom for the next lesson. There are many possibilities for keeping your child busy and occupied so that they don’t have time to get into trouble.
2. Teach your child if-then strategies.
The A-B-C data you collect may also tell you something about your child’s triggers for aggressive behavior. For example, your child may be more prone to act out when they feel frustrated that something is not working as they expect. You could teach your child that if something is broken or malfunctioning that this is a time to ask for help. Perhaps your child becomes aggressive when they feel criticized in some way. You could role play such a situation and brainstorm ways your child could respond without aggression. The key here is to list all your child’s known triggers for aggressive behavior and teach alternate ways to handle the situation.