New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

Parents of ADHD Children

Do the meltdowns/tantrums/defiance behaviors get better with age?

My son is 6.  He has ADHD.  He gets very out of sorts and melts down and tantrums horribly if he does not get his way all of the time.  I am just sitting here thinking, “what is he going to be like at 15?!”  He is in therapy. He is on meds.  I have a 504 meeting tomorrow to get things started in school in terms of his aggressive behavior. I’ve implemented dietary changes.  I’m reading books.  Like many here I don’t think there is much more that can be reasonably done.  Did things get better for you all as the kids aged?


Good Morning,

I also have a 6 year old. He use to have horrible tantrums and melt downs, where all I could do was put him in a room. We didn’t go many places and he had troubles in school. Our school tested him and he now has an IEP in place which has done wonders. I started with a therapist and we implemented using 123 stops meltdowns before they occur because it takes the struggle out of requests. School started using chips as a reward system which I also implemented at home. They also started letting him cash his chips in at recess and bring other kids to the counselors room for game time. It addresses his socialization and he can spend as many chips he wants on how many different kids he wants! It gets better when you can find what works. Hang in there!

Posted by linadixie on Apr 25, 2013 at 3:56pm

Not sure about in general, but I was a major tantrum thrower, as in on the ground at Target in the toy aisle melting down, crying, screaming/hollering kinds of tantrums. Same at home, on the floor, meltdowns, crying, chasing my mom around when she’d try to extinguish my behavior with not acknowledging it. (With how I react, if I receive any attention, positive or negative, during my crankpot fits I have still - nothing on par with childhood or teenage years, but I can turn into a little angry tornado for a few minutes, typically if I’ve misplaced something, but as a child and a teenager, if I got any attention, I kept going, it fueled my tantrum fires and still does. So my parents had to use extinguishing techniques and giving me basically enough to know that they saw me but I wasn’t going to evoke a reaction. I used to get the “we’re going to head home now, you can come if you want to get up off the floor” at the store and they’d start to walk away which would lead to me popping up and I’d be like “what toy, I never asked for toys, I’m coming with” lol.

I from around 9 to just shy of 12, I was much more calm. 12-14 wasn’t so much tantrums as it was dealing with just being diagnosed with bipolar disorder when my pediatrician referred me to a psychiatrist because of his concern that while he was confident in my ADHD diagnosis (and it’s been agreed upon for years by numerous psychiatrists I’ve seen since), it wasn’t all that was I was dealing with and I have a family history of bipolar disorder. At the point I was diagnosed, I rapid cycled from extreme mania to extreme depressive states, which is still the same now.

By 15, things got rocky again… I don’t have good news there from my own personal story. I was a horrible, out of control and openly defiant teenager. I didn’t care, I had truancy issues, and I had major impulse control problems that led to risky behavior when with friends, and risky behavior with guys. My parents tried to stop me, but I’d find ways above, around, or through. I started calming down somewhat around 17 after a traumatic experience, I don’t want to go into detail, but after that, I started to make BETTER, not perfect decisions. I got a job, enrolled at the school district ALC where I actually for once in years enjoyed school and I had teachers that saw me as more than a troublesome kid, but saw my strengths and so I ended up as an aide in the computer lab at the request of my teacher (making computers that should be long gone and replaced get one more life, haha, also managing the district grade records on the district’s intranet, removing inappropriate desktop backgrounds and removing viruses and malware, etc., I had fun) and my English teacher asked me to speak at graduation so I did, which was difficult but it was a great experience. I was 17 and dating a 24 year old complete jerk but eh, win some, lose some. I wasn’t having tantrums like I had been and I was doing awesome in school when it was looking like I was going to be looking at getting my GED and not my HS diploma. I graduated on time with my class.

I did go through a behavioral rehab day program for about 4 months when I was 16. It required leaving school and I was able to earn my credits there and get my schooling in there as well, plus work on my issues especially the tantrums. I went through DBT after that even though it’s not for what my diagnoses are, it teaches emotional regulation and that truly saved my butt. I have no doubt I would have gone right back to heading off the deep end into an empty pool without it. I’ve taken it 4 more times since to keep my skills fresh in my mind and practiced.

So, from what I was like, it was a lot of tantrums, momentary peace, me as a teenager which was something slightly horrid and involved a few police calls, juvenile holding centers for me to cool down for 8-10 hours and then my mom would pick me up, a couple of psychiatric unit stays because my therapist was ugh, but that period was short in the overall big picture, it really literally lasted from 16 to a couple months after I turned 17. 17 wasn’t too bad, school was great, and my parents just tolerated my boyfriend and figured I’d get a clue, which I did right after graduation. So it wasn’t easy but we all came out alive and my family and I (especially my mom who got the worst of it all and I feel horrible for how much I put her through) are close, I see them almost every week, and I text them almost daily (er, well they tend to text me, but hey) so it’s also survivable.

I wish I could say I grew right out of it at 7 or 8, but I’d be lying.

A 504 plan is great, be sure to keep tabs on the school abiding by it and don’t let them slide with anything. I had one throughout school, it was extremely helpful. So glad to hear your’re learning about ADHD and getting your hands on all sorts of info. Keep that up, there’s a lot of new information that continues to be discovered about ADHD. smile

What medication is your son on and has he been on anything else? He may benefit from a different medication or a dose increase. I have strong opinions against homeopathy, chiropractics, or the Feingold diet and any other highly restrictive diet (modifying a diet so it’s more healthy and going for less processed foods, etc., is not where my cranky bone to pick is at, lol, I’m all for that, frankly), as well as really any other poorly researched alternative treatment. (I have solid reasons behind this but I’m not going to go into it unless someone comes at me for it.) The one thing I DO suggest that is a supplement and I rarely suggest supplements, is adding a fish oil supplement along with medication. This does have promising results in studies as far as at least augmenting the efficacy of MPH or amphetamine ADHD treatment and helping with moodiness in particular. I’ve added it to my treatment (I take 20mg Adderall (IR) 4x/daily) and I’ve noticed some improvement in helping with focus and keeping moods more even, but it’s only been about 8 days.

I’d also look into behavioral therapies/coaching to help him learn to redirect his anger as well as learn other ways to cope with his ADHD. Starting out young with that is a bit of an advantage.

I’d imagine he’ll have his moments where you can take some sighs of relief, recharge, and get some serious self-care done in those times. But don’t neglect self-care exercises for yourself even in the heat of it, I remember that being one thing that helped my mom keep herself together when I was being really difficult. Get something nice done for yourself or do something you love and dedicate you time for it at least once a week. Whether it’s after he’s in bed, by splurging on a sitter for a few hours, or on a school day if you can, taking some time to yourself. And keeping a journal of positive things you do and are might be helpful?

If you need to, don’t be afraid to seek a therapist for yourself. It’s a ton to deal with. My mom saw therapists off/on when I was growing up because she had a lot of guilt, frustration, confusion, and felt incompetent (she’s since told me) when it came to how to handle me.

Take care. smile

Posted by msmightyflighty on Apr 25, 2013 at 4:13pm

Hi mykidscheerleader! In our experience, yes, it gets better with age and maturity. As msmightyflighty said above, at about 9 years old my son started to show some self-awareness and began being able to spot triggers himself and try to redirect himself. He’s 10.5 now and, while he still has meltdowns on occassion, they are few and far between—when he was 6 they were daily if not several times a day.

These changes didn’t just come with age and maturity though. We worked really hard on teaching him problem solving skills and frustration tolerance as taught in Dr. Ross Greene’s book, The Explosive Child. You have to realize that he’s not acting out because he’s not getting his way. He’s acting out because he only saw one way and he doesn’t have the innate skills to tolerate the frustration of a change in plan, nor the skills to problem solve and come up with alternatives.

If you work at it, behaviors definitely improve with age and proper treatment.

Hang in there!
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Apr 25, 2013 at 6:06pm

Yes - temper tantrums do get better (at least in our case). Our now 13 year old ADHD son still has tantrums - but they are milder, more rare, has no more hitting, and he now has the maturity to know they are not appropriate. Things aren’t 100%,  but a HUGE improvement from when he was 9.

We did have him in therapy for a while and he is on Concerta. It’s all about having him learn to contain his emotions.

Stay positive !

Posted by staypositive on Apr 25, 2013 at 6:09pm

Yup, it does get better with age so hang in there. Elementary school ages are the worst I’ve found. It does start getting gradually easier and less frequent with age as far as the big all-out, fall on the floor, screaming tirades (you and he both), and crying episodes go. My son is 11 and he can now consciously try harder to control his behavior and does better than say, at age 7 (when I thought I was going to lose my mind).

Impulse control gets easier for them, but developmentally they tend to lag 3 yrs. behind their peers so at age 6 that’s a very hard time. Keep monitoring his medication with his doctor to make sure he’s on the right thing at the right dose along with behavior therapy. It’s very important that at all ages the medication is what they need. At 11 my son’s starting to be a smart-alecky teenager though, so as usual you end up trading one thing in for another where kids are concerned. Hang in there and good luck with your meeting!

Posted by Havebeenthere on Apr 25, 2013 at 6:17pm

My son, who is 8, still has tantrums. The only difference is that he can now understand when I tell him that it is reasonable for me to ask him to do things like his homework and he can explain the reason for his strong negative reaction. Instead of saying, “I don’t know why I did that,” he says, “I didn’t think before I acted.” I don’t know if that helps or not, but it helps me to know that because I can work with him on that.

Good luck!
Susan in Yuma

Posted by SueH on Apr 25, 2013 at 8:13pm

My son is 14 it has gotten so much better with age!  At this point there really are very few blow ups of any kind.  As long as he is well fed- that’s still the challenge.  Hang in there, I can honestly say that I actually forget that he even has ADHD for days at a time.  He’s on medication so that helps but even when it’s worn off life is so much easier and I’d even say wonderful at times!

Posted by Ilana on Apr 25, 2013 at 8:54pm

Well I felt like I really had to push for that behavioral assessment because he’s doing better this week on a higher med dose. Well the last dose was gone for quote a while too! Ugh! That was frustrating. I told them it may be too little med all of the sudden one day and then he hauls off and guys someone. Then what? This is not a short term issue. He needs to start learning tools now to carry him through school. Social interactions and potential frustrations are just going to get worse.

Posted by mykidscheerleeder on Apr 26, 2013 at 4:17am

And thank you for all of the responses. Really helps me feel better that things can get better.

Posted by mykidscheerleeder on Apr 26, 2013 at 4:22am

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Both of my boys used to have terrible tantrums.  In fact, I’m still traumatized when I hear a kid screaming in the store.  They are now 15 and 19 and I hate to say it out loud, but haven’t had a tantrum in ages. They definately have ADHD symptoms and challenges, but the hyperness and irritability are long gone. They’ve both been off meds for a year and knock on wood, so far, so good. (although my oldest scolded me the other night for having him on “speed” for 12 years-there was a proud parent moment.)

Posted by Nemo on May 04, 2013 at 12:55am

Reply to this thread

You must be logged in to reply. To log in, click here.
Not a member? Join ADDConnect today. It's free and easy!

Not a member yet? Join here »

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions