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Strategies on how to control a explosive child.

jennifer425 profile image

Hello i have a 12 year old boy that doesn't respect me much he can be very naughty also he is very impulsive. He is now in 4 different medicines , guanfacine,concerta,abilify and lexapro. His diagnosis are adhd combined , disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, anxiety. When ever he wants he can be good and nice boy , he doesnt have a bad heart. But lately he is out of control he is very oppositional when ever ppl tell him to do stuff he is always answering back, the only time he will listen to you is when ever he wants to get his ipad. Any strategies on how to deal with this types of behaviors?

18 Replies

I have a 9 yr old with similar behaviour issues. iPad is usually the leverage, but I really don't like the fact that I have to use or to allow him to have it longer than 30 min per day for gaming. I'm at a loss too. Impulsivity is a part of ADHD and my son is not even on meds (my ex wouldn't allow it and we have shared custody). I really feel for you. One thing I do is reward his behaviour when I see him controlling himself (e.g. with his younger brother with whom he fights constantly). Can't say if it'll work kong term, but it makes him aware that he can behave well too and creates a positive experience.

Bootsie1 profile image
Bootsie1 in reply to Purple808

This is a good podcast with Russell Barkley to help understand behaviors

Is your son getting counseling? My son (17) has a similar profile and meds. The meds help but finding a good counselor was also key to him (and us) understanding his triggers, worries and teaching him other strategies to deal with his big emotions. My husband and I also meet with a therapist weekly to learn how to parent him. He hasn’t been explosive in quite a while and when he does the talking back thing, we give him a moment (or an hour) and then we are able to talk about how it makes us feel. Most kids who are explosive are also very sad, afraid and anxious. They are in fight/flight mode and we have to teach them that our family is a safe place and he has safe people to talk to. It’s hard being the mama, but I can tell that you love him and you can do this! Good luck!

I love your message! Thanks. It is wonderful you can sharing your experiences with us.

I agree it is wonderful to have medication and thearpy. We also include an educational plan so that school is not overwhelming for our son.

Hello yes my son takes in home therapy and also at school .

Hello! Your situation sounds very familiar. My son is 15 and has been explosive and oppositional since forever. We tried everything. What's helped and is helping the most is the course from the ADHD Dude programme. It's excellent and has really made a difference for us. I've learnt many strategies that have put me back in the driver's seat. Give it a go!

What is that?

Hiya. It's adhddude.comThere's a membership programme for parents and it's very good value. The course which helped me the most is Scaffolding better behaviour. It's a series a short videos where Ryan, the author explains everything so clearly and gives strategies. It's excellent and a lot of things made sense after that.

Give it a go. It's the only thing that worked for me.

Hello. Our 11 year old had outbursts with defiance and we have seen positive results with therapy, medication and adjusting our overall approach to addressing his outbursts. We (his parents) try to not let ourselves get heated/ loud, etc in response and instead tell him that there is a consequence for behavior and hold firm. We don’t ratchet up the punishment or consequence if he continues to get loud or maintain his position. It seems to be working. We also try to make sure we give him positive attention daily even if for 15-20 minutes. During this time we might hang out with him in his room, have him tell us about legos, etc but just observe and listen —no comments that are suggestions just positive observations. This approach is something I read about in a book which I believe was called Your Defiant Child.

My SS is 12 and taking concerta and talks to a therapist over FaceTime once a week (we haven’t been able to get him in person the entire last two years pandemic reasons and if mother would never allow it regardless of safety measures.) A lot of his outburst are around control/lack of control, anxiety, and then simple stuff like low blood sugar (yes he gets hangry! Which is frustrating bc he doesn’t even feel like he’s hungry when he most def is.) I have tried so many things to decrease outbursts or handle them in a less traumatic way, but I’ll tell you what - my SS is really good at getting in the weeds with those he’s in conflict with. My fiancé gets fired up when this occurs and loses his cool and walks away-which taught my SS that you can just get up and leave in the middle of screaming at someone. Not great. I do the opposite and want to talk it out and get to the root of the issue. Also not great when the energy in the room is big and irrational.

After years of fighting, trying different approaches, taking away screen privileges, having him write out his feelings, rinse and repeat, I’ve been trying a technique called disengagement. Not in the way a stepparent disengages to the the situation and withdraws but instead in how I speak to my SS when he starts to get nasty towards us over a limit or frustration. I have to say it works 99% of the time. The 1% is the error of getting in the weeds.

For example: Child asks for more screen time after reaching daily limit. Parent/caregiver says no, sorry you’ve reached your limit for today. Child gets upset and mouths off due to frustration and disappointment and says something hurtful and disrespectful toward parent. Parent calming by firmly says “I find what you’re saying right now hurtful and disrespectful. You have reached your daily screen limit today.” Child starts in again trying to push the limits and express themselves but does so by pushing over all their books off their shelf and saying how unfair the rules are. Parent calmly but firmly says “I find this behavior to be inappropriate. I see your upset by this. Take some time to feel those feelings. I would also like these books cleaned up in the next ten minutes. When your finished you can come out to the living room.” And then leave them alone/disengage. Theyll see you leave and either make a bigger mess or sit there and calm down and clean up said books. Do not engage them regardless - control is in their hands to decide how to act. Let them decide.

This is obviously a super watered down contained example, but I work it out like a formula: I feel - I see you feel - I would you like to - time limit - I’ll be here when you’re done - walk away.

If you need to remind them of the consequence to said actions, add that in. But don’t go off the rails explaining anything. You can do that when everyone’s calm and it can wait. Typically I wait until the kid has calmed down, made things right (pick up books in example) and approached me. I then remind them of the rules and expectations, let them know I understand they’re disappointed and remind them of the consequence for disrespectful behavior (like tomorrow you lose 15-30 min of screen time, not gain it. In our house if video games make you act a fool, you are clearly being affected and need to rein it in a bit.)

If child has not picked up books / made it worse - let’s say now they’re destroying their room and screaming at you - don’t engage. Just wait for them to be done. They’re trying to get your attention. Then try your disengagement again and make sure the last part is putting their room back together immediately after calming down.

This can be super hard when the kid is super explosive - but it has worked for me thus far. It takes a lot of practice so I’m getting better and better at it. And I think it decreases the negative impact on everyone. It takes a lot for me to not get in the weeds so I shut that stuff down with disengagement. Disclaimer though: sometimes (and all the adults are aware including therapist) I worry about self harm when I disengage. He will pound his fists on furniture and himself to get his energy out and sometimes I feel pretty worried so I sit near his door if the feelings are really big in case I need to intervine. It hasn’t happened in a few weeks but I make sure his door stays open when I leave him be. If you’re worried about this sort of thing tell a professional like we have.

End the entire ordeal with a hug if you can. Regardless of the consequence that was administered. They still need to know how much you love them unconditionally.

Also - goes without saying but um, medication does help for evening out emotions.

jennifer425 profile image
jennifer425 in reply to N_37

Thanks for all that information , i think my main problem is that when my child acts up i will scream at him so this goes back and forward sometimes idk how to control that . He gets even angrier every time i respond back to what he says but now im going to start ignoring and not fight back with him i will just tell him thats not correct to act that way and to finish whatever he has to do.

N_37 profile image
N_37 in reply to jennifer425

Oh I hear you. There were times were I completely lost my shit and just yelled. I get so irritated by behavior like that because I find it unwarranted / it’s taking so.much.practice to get to where I am and it’s by far no where near perfect. Every time something goes down and I get just a little bit of it right I say “at least you did this right this one time, keep it up.” Positive self talk helps me. The more I practice disengagement the better off my household is, and I have to remember this. Be firm, be kind to yourself, and remember you’re only human. Nothing works overnight, everything takes practice.

We have a similar situation. 9 yr old boy diagnosed with DMDD, ADHD, anxiety. He takes Abilify, Metadate, Prozac and just recently added Guanafacine. He is explosive at times, it is a safety issue at cL times. He destroys things, breaks things ans will throw whatever is nearby at you in “the moment”. He typically will apologize willingly once he’s realized how he’s acted. I am at a loss sometimes, this affects our whole family. A lot of times it is triggered by electronics or even the sound of my voice if he senses annoyance or disappointment. He flips.

Those are the same diagnosis my son has is very hard to deal with his type of behaviors.

In addition to Dr. Barkley, Dr. Ross Greene wrote a book The Explosive Child and has a webpage that can be accessed through that explains an intervention that may help.

I totally understand as my son was very oppositional and at times verbally and physically abusive. As someone mentioned, you need to go on the ADHD Dude website and watch the videos. You could even schedule a one on one session with Ryan Wexblatt, the dude himself. His one video about the “conversation vortex” really was a game changer for us. I realized I was contributing to my son’s episodes of out of control emotionality. As someone mentioned, Triple P parenting is supposed to be effective, as is CBT. ADHD kids are super sensitive and can react harshly to anything negative. Dr. Barley and Dr. Hallowell are two leading experts whose books would be helpful. They also have videos. Also, join CHADD, the national organization for ADHD which will tap you into needed resources. Hugs for the journey.

jennifer425 profile image
jennifer425 in reply to Danseuse

Thank u

I have a 14-year-old and have been dealing with us for some time, as well. It has recently gotten worse with hormones and weird teen years. I find that he is defensive and argumentative about EVERYTHING. A simple reminder or task will sometimes send him over the edge and other times not. We just started seeing a therapist and have our first appointment with a psychiatrist this month. I feel your frustration and pain!

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