A Pushy Kid
LS in Arizona says:
When my 8-year-old ADHD son gets angry with classmates in an unstructured environment (playground), he will immediately push someone. What steps can I suggest as an alternative? (I have offered just walking away or putting his hands in his pockets and taking a deep breath.)
Michele Novotni answers:
Unstructured situations can be a challenge for many with AD/HD. Your suggestions for alternative behaviors sound great. In addition you may want to help him learn to internalize better control and be better able to go on "automatic pilot" when a difficult situation pops up in such an unstructured setting.
It may be helpful to write down what it is that he gets angry about each time on a chart to see if you can restructure or resolve any of the issues.
You may also want to practice in advance through role-play or visualization so that appropriate responses can become more automatic. When you do something repeatedly in practice it is more likely to occur when the situation pops up. Perhaps you could also use cue cards with him before playing to serve as a prompt to help him remember to control his anger.
He may also find an appropriate anger venting strategy helpful when he comes home such as punching a punching bag or pillow or hitting tennis balls.
Another strategy would be to help structure those unstructured situations as much as possible or at least minimize the amount of time he spends in those situations for now.
Michele Novotni, Ph.D., is a psychologist and coach in private practice in Wayne, Pennsylvania.
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