What do these behaviors sound like to you?
· Not handing in homework consistently
· Responsibility avoidance
· Not able to sustain mental effort
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.
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