I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not to write about having a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I have decided to share my experience because ADHD still has such a stigma around it even though ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental/behavioural disorder in children.
I am not a medical professional, just a Mum that has had to learn along the way, but one of the main symptoms can be an inability to control their impulses. This can often result in aggressive outbursts, yet many people still believe ADHD is just an excuse for ‘naughty’ children. I have had many comments about my son’s diagnosis, even from family members. Comments such as “he’s just an energetic boy” or “give him a smack, that’ll sort him out” and “it must be bad parenting”. I may not be a perfect parent, but I know I’m a damn good one, and parenting does not change how my son’s brain controls his impulses.
In this post I won’t go in to how frustrating it is to have your parenting judged, the battles that you have to fight just to get your child what they need and deserve or how awful it feels to have family members judge you, and even worse, your child. I’ll just say that I’ve been there, I still am there. If you are going through that, I get how hard it is. Just remember that at the end of the day, you know your child best and you are doing the best you can to support your child’s needs. Others do not see what everything you go through, day in, day out. Some days its hard, some days it’s really hard, but we are strong. If we can get through this, we can get through anything! You are not alone!
So, back to the reason for my post. After many strategies tried, some that worked, some that did not, I am going to share the strategy that works every time in calming my son. A Hug. It sounds simple, but it isn’t always. It’s not always easy to hug someone that’s shouting, swearing and hitting you. It’s not always easy to keep your cool. Even the best parents lose it sometimes but this is the only strategy that I have found that actually works. When a child is angry, they cannot listen to reason, so trying to explain what they have done wrong at that time is pointless. When a child is angry, they are unlikely to calm down without some support. Choosing this time to shout at them or tell them off is only going to make them feel worse.
Over the years I have learnt to spot the signs. When Olly’s anger and anxiety are building, he gets hot, his heart beats faster, his shoulders tense up, he grunts a lot and he gets easily frustrated.
So this is what I do when I see his anger building. First I verbalise how he is feeling because this is something he struggles to do. “I can see you are feeling angry”. Next, I ask if there is anything I can do to help. Sometimes this can defuse the situation completely. Other times, I can’t fix the problem. I ask if a hug would help him feel better. During the hug, I can feel his shoulders drop and his breathing slows down. Once I can see he has calmed down, I will talk to him about something that I know makes him happy, the current topic is the Grossery Gang.
If he has gone past the point of calming down and he is shouting, swearing, throwing toys or hitting, I hug him as tight as I can. I hug him and tell him I love him and I am there to help him calm down. As I said above, I feel his shoulders drop, his breathing slows down and he just melts in to the hug.
When I know he is completely calm, I will then calmly talk to him about his behaviour. What I say has changed over the years to suit his level of understanding. At the moment it is something along the lines of “Olly, when you were feeling angry earlier, you hurt your brother. It is ok to feel angry but it is not ok to hurt people or property”.
This strategy works for us. Olly’s behaviour is improving all the time. Aggressive behaviour occurs much less often now.
I went on a course a few years ago and they explained anger building up in a really great way. Think about the average day with your child, all those little things that upset them,. Things as small as having the wrong coloured cup, their lego creation breaking, being told they can’t eat sweets for breakfast, things that individually do not seem like a reason to get angry. Now try to imagine your child’s anger is like a bottle of coke, every time your child is upset by something, its like shaking the bottle. So if you opened that bottle while its at it most shaken its going to explode everywhere, right? So what do you do? You open it slowly. It’s the same with your child’s anger. If you learn to spot the signs, you can support the child to understand how they are feeling and how they can feel better. This can stop the anger from building to a point of explosion.
Although my post is based on my experience with a child with ADHD, this method would also work particularly well with younger children that are still learning to manage their emotions.
Thank you for reading. Just remember to always be kind and try not to judge others. After all, we don’t know what others are going through.