Month: April 2015

Part III: Anger: You Can’t Make Me” Depleting Emotional Fuel

Maybe I am pulling for it by writing these blogs about anger (see last two blog posts:, but lately I’ve had a run of angry kids.

While the content varies in terms of the specifics of each case, there are commonalities:

1)      The kid avoids school work for a variety of reasons.

2)      At some point there is a clampdown on the kid in the form of a punishment of some kind.

3)      Anger and resentment increase.  The anger reservoir enlarges.

4)      The kid becomes more avoidant while the parent(s) get increasingly frustrated.

5)      More clampdowns.

6)      More anger

7)      Etc., etc., etc…

(This becomes like the number “pi” – it goes on and on.)

It’s not a pretty picture.

Here are a few pointers to try and deal with the increasing River of Anger that lies just below the ADHD Swamp.

1)      Even if the child is not telling you directly, assume that the kid is feeling some level of anger.

2)      When appropriate (such as in the car when alone with child), take a guess, something like, “I bet you’re angry with me, right?”  (Make sure the tone that you are asking is more curious and not with a hostile edge that puts the kid on the defensive.)

3)      If kid nods, you’re on to something.  If kid gets defensive, you’re playing a wrong chord (see point above about hostile edge).

4)      After nodding, get curious.  “Wow… I didn’t know…tell me more.”

5)      Maybe take one more guess.  Usually kids think you’re being unfair about something… “You think I’m unfair, right?”

6)      As kid elaborates, say something like,  “O.K., I understand.  I could see why you are angry.”  (As an aside, it does not mean you necessarily agree why the child is angry.)

7)      If kid is on a roll, let him keep going.

8)      At the end of it, try saying something like, “Ok, I get why you’re angry.  I’ve been angry too about how school work is going.  How about you and I come up with a plan that we both can live with.”  Work on a putting together a plan cooperatively.

Please understand, I am not suggesting a “democratic style” household by putting the child in charge or anything like that.  I am simply suggesting that the anger is a huge variable that clogs up the engine.  Unless the anger gets some release, the engine doesn’t run well, especially if there are other issues such as ADHD, LD, dyslexia, etc..

Taking guesses as to why you believe the child is angry and turning down the heat are great first steps.

Take Away Point

Get the anger.

(In next blog, I will talk about what happens when kid doesn’t live up to his end of the plan.)


Anger You Can’t Make Me: Part II. Depleting Emotional Fuel

In a recent blog post I discussed how anger can be depleting a child from the necessary emotional fuel to manage school  Many of the typical “ADHD” style behaviors such as avoiding responsibilities, procrastinating, not sustaining mental effort,  may  be due, in part, to anger that remains unexpressed or misunderstood.

Children do not tend to be very clear about their anger.  In fact, most of us have difficulty with anger and its expression.  Most of the time, children are angry because they feel over-controlled and over-punished.

Ask yourself,  are your punishments reaching their desired goals?

Punishments tend to be reactive and usually result in a great deal of resentment.  They rarely succeed in helping kids become more motivated.  Usually, the anger that is underneath the surface needs some type of release, some type of understanding.  It is through the understanding that the anger is often dissipated.

Rather than wait for your child to come out directly and state their feelings, which is often very difficult to do,  one approach that may work would be to take a few educated guesses:

·         You think I am being too hard on you,  huh?

·         I bet you are real angry with me right now, right?

·         You think I am over- controlling, right?

Watch for the child’s nonverbal reaction to see if you are on to something.  If you get a lot of head nodding, you probably are hitting the mark.

You may ask, “So how do you see me as over-controlling” or “Why are you angry with me right now?”

Perhaps in the car, when is just you in your child (with no siblings), it would be a good time to give it a shot.  You don’t have to agree with what the child says,  but listening can have powerful effects.  Releasing some of the anger may lead to less of a desire to “stick it to you” and a perception that both of you are on the same team-not opposing ones.


Take Away Point

Anger is a strong force that can undermine all of your efforts with your child.  Find ways to show your child to you understand some of his/her feelings, and he may find that there is greater energy for tackling some of the more difficult tasks, like schoolwork.

Adapted “School Struggles,”  Richard Selznick, Ph.D. (2012) Sentient Publications


Anger: “You Can’t Make Me” – Depleting Emotional Fuel

What do these behaviors sound like to you?

· Not handing in homework consistently

· Responsibility avoidance

· Procrastination

· Not able to sustain mental effort

· Forgetful

I bet you are thinking something like ADHD, of the inattentive variety, or some form of executive function deficiency. In the back of your mind, you are wondering about medication. The teachers keep bringing it up, “even though we are not doctors,” you’ve heard time and again.

When I hear these behaviors discussed something does nag at me though and it is the question of anger and whether anger may be contributing to some of the difficulty.

It’s not that anger created the school problems, but anger is an additive variable, that depletes emotional fuel from the child’s tank.

When kids are struggling with school and are becoming variably compliant, parents frequently implement a series of reactive punishments such as, “That’s it!!! You’re finished with video games until further notice,” or “You’re grounded this weekend,” or some other variation of these.

How does the kid react to this?

Does he go off and reflect, “Gee, I know my parents are right. I deserve to have my video system taken away. I’ll start doing my homework more consistently.”

I doubt it.

More likely he is ruminating on the unfairness of it all with some type of internal dialogue like:

This is so unfair. Their stupid punishments won’t work. I can’t believe they are doing this. I’ll show them. I’m not going to do the stupid work no matter what they do. They can’t make me.

Anger is a powerful emotion, so we need to be careful about how we try and manage it. Many parents will try and negatively reinforce the anger, however, this can add to the problem sometimes. If this anger is truly becoming a problem, it might be worth getting in touch with those at Citron Hennessey, for example, to see if they could help. Often, psychotherapy clinics can be extremely useful for people to learn how to manage this anger themselves. That could be useful for people struggling with anger.


Takeaway Point

ADHD/ADD is real. So is anger. It’s important to try and sort them out if you can.

(In next blog we will talk about some of the ways.)


Adapted: “School Struggles,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D. (2012), Sentient Publications


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