One of my favorite kids, Marla, age 6, came in to see me.
Nearly six and going into first grade in the fall, I had tracked Marla since she was three. As the mental health professionals like to call it, Marla’s had issues with, “behavioral self-regulation.”
Marla’s difficulty with “behavioral self-regulation” usually appeared as her having difficulty keeping her hands to herself and frequently melting down when things were not going her way.
Marla came in to chat about summer camp, which was just starting. Marla tells me that there is a counselor in her bunk who was assigned to her specifically “because of my anger issues.”
Marla’s frank statement of her “anger issues’ pulled me back a bit and I raised an inquisitive eyebrow and asked her, “Oh, yeah. What are your anger issues?”
With a sly smile, she says very little and shrugs.
I encourage her to draw me her anger issues. While Marla loves drawing, there was not much content that illustrated her anger issues. I compliment her on the drawing.
I am not dismissing the idea that young kids like Marla can have “anger issues,” but there are a considerable percentage of kids who may not have anger issues, though it looks like it in how they behave and interact.
My interpretation of Marla’s “anger issues” was simple.
When she does not get what she wants Marla gets angry. There was a small word that frequently results in Marla reacting poorly. In short, Marla struggles with “no” and it makes her angry.
Too often, children like Marla are quickly diagnosed with ADHD and put on medication before understanding their difficulty coping with something like the “no” word.
In Marla’s case a lot of work focused on both Marla and the way her parents managed her challenging behavior.
Over time Marla incrementally started to face reality that it wasn’t always going to go her way and that, yes, there is a no and you have to deal with it.
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