Extra Care for Kids with ADHD and Aggression

Combination of meds and parent training may improve symptoms.

Medically reviewed in November 2021

If your kid struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you probably know there's no simple answer to treatment. But most experts agree that a two-step approach with a stimulant medication and therapy is often the best course. And for kids who also have problems with aggression, one study suggests that adding a third step may help them keep in anger in check.

Extra Step for Anger
Nearly 170 children between the ages of 6 and 12 were enrolled in the study. The children had been diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or ADHD and conduct disorder (CD), with a history of severe physical aggression.

One group of kids and their parents were enrolled in a "basic" therapy program, which included a stimulant medication and parent training. The other group followed an "augmented" therapy program, which included an antipsychotic drug, along with the stimulant and parent training.

While both groups had improved symptoms at the end of nine weeks, fewer children in the augmented group (16%) were rated by their parents as having disruptive ODD/CD symptoms compared to the basic group (40%). The findings were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Smart Parenting Tips
Many kids with ADHD also have a disruptive behavior disorder, often showing up as severe irritability or aggression. If you've noticed those symptoms, you may want to talk with your child's doctor about whether adding an additional medication could help.

Here are a few more tips to keep your family on track:

  • Try skills training to help your kid better manage stress. Or consider cognitive-behavioral therapy to help your older child or teen deal with negative thoughts. Learn more about therapy and counseling options.
  • Follow the same routine every day. When a change comes up, write it on the calendar and give your kid as much notice as possible.
  • For young kids with ADHD, use a journal that he or she takes to school each day, so they can write down homework assignments and teachers can also make notes. For older kids and teens, balance your supervision with their need for independence.
  • When it comes to rules, be clear and consistent. And don't forget to give praise when rules are followed. Kids with ADHD often expect to be blamed and put down, so be sure to give your kid the kudos they deserve!

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