George was 9 years old the day we met. It was very clear that he wasn’t happy about having to talk with me. He answered me with mostly one-word answers, arms folded across his chest and repeatedly sighed dramatically during our meeting. His father reported that George was “out of control. We’ve tried everything. We’ve taken away his electronics, banned him from playing with friends, assigned chores, tried bribing him… nothing works. He’s just angry and defiant and we need help.”
Anger management problems often present in children and are attributable to many different underlying problems. Sometimes children with ADD/ADHD present primarily as angry and defiant, while sometimes depression or anxiety is the underlying cause. In George’s case, it became clear in our next few meetings that he was experiencing an adjustment disorder that started when his baby brother was born last year. George was resentful of his new brother whom he felt got all of his parents’ attention. At 9 years old, George’s frontal lobe in his brain was not fully developed (it fully develops in most children between ages 8-12). This was important because this meant that George was struggling with regulating his intense emotions about the baby and the changes that had come with the baby. His parents were concerned George was “going down a dark path” and “going to end up in juvenile detention.” They were concerned that he would do something to hurt the baby and were terrified to leave him alone, even for a few minutes. George had said some really upsetting things to them like, “I wish that baby was dead” and had once threatened to run away from home.
With weekly therapy sessions and the eventual addition of medication to help with his impulse regulation, George was able to thrive. The day he told me “I hated you when I met you but now I’m really glad I get to see you. It makes me feel better,” I knew he was on his way to a full recovery from his anger problems.
What WellPsyche Patients Are Saying
“I was really mad at my mom and dad when they got divorced. I thought they didn’t care about me any more. I was skipping school and not doing my homework. I started hanging out with kids who were really pissed off like me and we did things like steal vape pens and once we broke into a pool in one of our neighborhoods. We got caught and that’s when my parents made me start seeing a therapist. I was pissed about it for a while. But I think it did help me. My parents and I get along now and I’ve got friends that don’t do illegal things.”
Josiah, age 12
As a parent, you want the best for your children. You may be concerned or have questions about certain behaviors they exhibit and how to ensure they get help. We have provided some guidance and resources to get you started.