9 Things to do Instead of Yell at Your ADD Child or Teen

9 Things to do Instead of Yell at Your ADD Child or Teen

Before becoming parents, did you ever witness an exasperated and overwhelmed parent lose it in Aisle 7 and find yourself thinking smugly, “I’m never going to yell at my kids”?

If you have a child with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which is also called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it is almost guaranteed that at some point during your parenting, you have felt so frustrated that you wanted to yell at your child. Maybe you have done so. A lot.

Trying not to Lose Your Temper can be Difficult

When your child does not listen, behave, comply, or openly defies, it can understandably send even the most patient of parents over the proverbial edge. However, the reality is that yelling is not an effective behavior management strategy and usually backfires.

Many people with ADD have low activity in the front part of their brains, due to lower levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Additionally, researchers have found that people with ADD have low levels of the stress hormone adrenaline.

As a way to feel more alert ADD children often find themselves conflict seeking; it stimulates them on an unconscious level. Kids and teens with ADD can be masterful at making other people mad or angry at them.

But it is imperative that you not lose your temper with them because it often makes things worse.

If they get you to explode, their low energy frontal cortex turns on, they feel better, and they unconsciously come to crave it. You do not want to let your anger be their medication. They can get addicted to it!

That’s right, we’ve actually seen ADD kids get addicted to their parents’ anger. And if you end up giving them the adrenaline and dopamine rush that they are looking for by engaging in conflict and yelling at them, they will figure out how to make you do it again…and again…and again.

Sound familiar? Then read on for some suggestions on what to do instead of yelling.

It is important to note that once parents learn how to become less reactive, to not feed the need for adrenaline and dopamine with anger, the ADD child may initially get worse.

It appears the child with ADD goes through withdrawal when others become calm and regulated, at least initially. When they can no longer get the adrenaline anger rush, they go after it full force.

Unconsciously, they seem to say to themselves, “I have been able to get my adrenaline fix from you for a long time, I know I can make you yell at me.” They escalate the outrageous behavior.

But if you can remain nonreactive for a long enough period of time, the conflict driven behavior usually significantly diminishes. And be prepared that, like a drug addict (think adrenaline junky), they will periodically test the “nonreactive skill” of the people in their environment by seeking intense emotional reactions.

What to do Instead of Yelling

  • Take responsibility for your mood and work to keep it regulated when dealing with your child.
  • Commit that you won’t open your mouth until you’re calm enough to speak at normal volume and in a kind tone.
  • Learn, practice, and then teach to others simple deep breathing techniques to use in calming a volatile situation.
  • Use family time outs where everyone in the family goes to a quiet part of the house for a designated period of time (10 -15 minutes), whenever voices are raised or someone is losing control.
  • Make sure to follow through with clear consequences for broken rules, enforced in a “matter of fact” and unemotional way.
  • Sing a song or hum a tune in your head to distract yourself.
  • Redirect the child’s attention to shift the situation.
  • Learn to pick your battles.
  • If you still feel like yelling, whisper (the difference in your behavior will shock them).

Remember that yelling shows your child that you, the almighty parent, has lost control. Your child will always do more of what you do, not what you say. Therefore, the more you can model calm behavior, the calmer your child will become.

Amen Clinics has helped tens of thousands of people with ADD/ADHD from all over the world. With targeted treatment, you can change your brain and change your life. If you feel that you or a loved one could benefit from an evaluation, contact Amen Clinics today at 888-288-9834 or visit us online.


  1. Wow! I have ADHD and have noticed that I learn/process information better after I “get mad and am fed up with the whole proces” and also… I focus *best* and am calm when I am furious. I call it the Calm Angry.

    Comment by Allison Harju — March 31, 2017 @ 12:15 PM

  2. Wow! This is my son! Categorized by the Amen Clinic in VA as #7 ADHD. Wish I had this information 6 years ago!! But then again, I guess God knew this, because I used to practice my memory verses (in my head) while he yelled!

    Comment by Brenda Henry Dean — August 7, 2017 @ 5:30 AM

  3. Hi

    I have Attention deficit disorder and the last two weeks

    Comment by Sacha Hampson — March 8, 2018 @ 1:08 PM

  4. I have Attention Deficit Disorder and the last two weeks at college I have had emotional outburst what should I do about it.

    Comment by Sacha Hampson — March 8, 2018 @ 1:10 PM

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