How to Deal With Children With Short Fuses

There are a lot of sparkly children, some with the stability of out-of-date gelignite. Parents handle these with the greatest of care, knowing that the slightest bump may blow their head off. Poor impulse control is predominantly a boy problem, though girls, including mothers, are not exempt. This style of temperament has a strong hereditary link, and many of these children are like a parent or grandparent.

This is often part of the spectrum of ADHD, a condition caused by inadequate function of the frontal parts of the brain. These parts affect the self-monitoring of learning and behavior. The biggest problem of ADHD comes from the child’s unthinking actions and impulsive behavior.

Angry Child

Short-fuse ADHD behaviors are more common in sole-parent situations. This may be because ADHD can be inherited from a parent, and in these cases conception may have been somewhat impulsive and ongoing impulsivity has destabilized the relationship. I work with many mums who are left with the difficult child of a difficult man.

Explosiveness is at its most extreme in the three- and four-year-old. With age, the fuse gradually lengthens. One of the most memorable “children of recent times was a boy aged three years. After a consultation punctuated by tantrums and flying toys, I asked the mum, is it always as bad as this?’

She calmly replied, ‘Yes. I can’t cope, my husband can’t cope, the grandparents can’t cope, and even our German shepherd guard dog is terrified of him.’

This story did have a happy ending. Tim had extreme ADHD, which responded well to treatment. Three months later I asked his mum, ‘How are things?’

The difference?’ she said. ‘Now I love him.’

The main problem at school age is volatility and unpredictability. The smallest unimportant event can trigger the most unexpected explosion. Parents gasp in disbelief: ‘How so little can result in so much!’ Outside the borne other parents look over as if to say, it’s that child mentally all right?’ At school the sparkly child is sought out by bullies who know they are easy to stir. When upset they may go berserk and hit out, and many may be suspended from school.

A parent who has not experienced this short-fuse type of temperament has no idea how it affects discipline. Mums and dads are in a dilemma about whether to stand firm and treat the child the same way they treat their other children or to back off and preserve the peace. The more I work with these children, the more often I promote the path of peace.

  • With young children anticipate, avoid triggers, divert, and keep calm. With older children get them to think how the behavior appears to others and teach self-control techniques.
  • Avoid debate and argument; this inflames and escalates.
  • Try to maintain a calm, matter-of-fact appearance.
  • Avoid actions and words that inflame. One mum said, ‘We get on much I better if I avoid the word “no”.’ There are better ways to say it without using that word.
  • Move yourself away from the scene.
  • Put the child in time out. This is a good idea but often it’s impossible.
  • Do not interpret the hysterical actions of a child as premeditated or malicious. The gentlest, most good-natured puppy may bite when I’m stressed and frightened.
  • With older children talk about the behavior when they are calm. Get them to realize how stupid they appear in front of their friends.
  • Try the stress-control techniques of taking deep breaths, counting to I five, punching a pillow, getting outside.
  • Notice and encourage when they turn the other cheek and let irritation pass.
  • Try the ‘traffic light’ technique, where they stop, think and then go.
  • When impulsivity is part of ADHD, its treatment will dramatically improve this behavior.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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